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Mirabai to return to competitive action after 6-month injury layoff with eye on Olympic berth

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Phuket (Thailand), Mar 31 (PTI) Tokyo Olympics silver medallist lifter Mirabai Chanu will return to competitive action after a six-month injury layoff when she participates at the IWF World Cup to confirm her Paris Games berth here on Monday.

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The World Cup is not only the final Olympic qualifying event but also a mandatory qualifier for the Paris Games.

Chanu, who has been recuperating from hip tendonitis she suffered during the Asian Games in September last year, has all but qualified for the Paris Olympics.

An appearance at the World Cup on Monday will be enough for her to seal her passage to Paris as the former world champion is ranked second in the women's 49kg Olympic Qualification Ranking (OQR) behind China's Jian HuiHua.

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Under the 2024 Olympics qualification rules, the 2023 World Championships and the 2024 World Cup are compulsory events.

Apart from these two tournaments, a lifter must participate in at least three of the following events — the 2022 World Championships, the 2023 Continental Championships, the 2023 Grand Prix 1, the 2023 Grand Prix II and the 2024 Continental Championships.

Chanu has fulfilled the criteria. She competed at the 2022 World Championship and the 2023 Asian Championships, finishing second and sixth respectively.

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At the 2023 Worlds and Grand Prix II, she did not heave the barbell due to her injury but completed all the necessary formalities to remain eligible for the Paris Games.

At the end of the World Cup, the top 10 lifters, who have met the criteria, will qualify for Paris in their weight category.

The best three performances at the qualifying events will be taken into account for final assessment and Chanu's came at the 2022 Worlds where she lifted a total of 200kg (87kg+113kg).

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The Manipuri lifter, who has struggled with injuries in the past two years, has registered an entry weight of 185kg, far from her personal best of 207kg (88kg+119kg).

Based on that she has been placed in Group B of the competition and is unlikely to be in medal contention. The lifters who register the highest entry weight are placed in group A, followed by B and so on.

China's Huihua and Tokyo Olympic champion Hou Zhihui, who are fighting amongst themselves for a Paris berth, have entered the highest entry weight of 210kg alongside Ri Song Gum of North Korea.

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The last time Chanu competed was at the Asian Games where her campaign ended in agony. The two-time Commonwealth Games champion suffered a dramatic fall on her back while attempting a clean and jerk lift, leading to her hip injury. She had to be carried out of the platform.

Coming off a long injury layoff, the 29-year-old is unlikely to attempt the much-awaited 90kg snatch lift or improve her clean and jerk effort.

"She is coming back from an injury, we will take it slow. She has already qualified so no point stretching her here. We want her to peak at the right time," head coach Vijay Sharma told PTI.

Chanu, who struggles with a back issue that affects her snatch, has been trying to breach the 90kg-mark since 2020.

Commonwealth Games silver medallist Bindyarani Devi is the other Indian in the fray. However, she is competing in the 55kg event, which is a non-Olympic weight class. PTI APA ATK ATK

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