Hailed as Mirabai 2.0, Bindyarani Devi wins CWG silver: “Gold slipped out of my hand”

Going into her first Commonwealth Games, Bindyarani Devi Sorokhaibam had been hailed by many as ‘Mirabai 2.0’. One can see why. They both share the same sport, same state, same city, similar career trajectories i.e. up, and even started their journeys at the SAI North Eastern Regional Centre in Imphal. And on Saturday, they both won a medal for India at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Lifting weights literally and metaphorically off her shoulders, the 23-year-old displayed calmness and confidence on her way to wearing silver by lifting a total of 202kg (86kg in snatch, a Games record of 116kg in clean and jerk) in the Women’s 55kg Weightlifting final. Her personal best total and only one less than the gold winner, Adijat Adenike Olarinoye of Nigeria.

Before Bindyarani’s first snatch lift, the final had seen 79kg being lifted only once. The Indian arrived at the venue, lifted 81kg in her first attempt. That was followed by a quick and explosive lift of 84kgs in her second, establishing a Commonwealth Games snatch record, even if it lasted for a few seconds. The 23-year old finished the round with two rulings in her favor for a 86kg lift.

The biggest takeaway for Bindyarani from the final came in the Clean & Jerk round when she lifted 116kg in her final attempt, a good five kg more than the second best. However, her deficit of six kg to Nigeria’s Olarinoye in snatch meant that the Indian finished second in the overall tally. A big moment in her story. Surely not the last and surely not the first.

National coach Vijay Sharma had, in a way, predicted this outcome. Ahead of the Games, he had pointed out Bindyarani’s shortcomings in snatch, especially when she went head-to-head with the Nigerian.

“She is a bright talent and her gold medal at the World Championships shows that. Ahead of CWG, we tried to work on her weakness in snatch,” Sharma had said. “We tried to make up for it as much as we can… but catch up with the Nigerian lifter will be tough.”

India’s Bindyarani Devi Sorokhaibam in action during the final. (Reuters)

The podium finish at the CWG is in continuation to the massive strides the lifter has taken in the last couple of years.

Seven months ago, in the absence of Mirabai Chanu, she won a gold for India in the 55Kg Clean & Jerk and a silver at the 2021 Commonwealth Senior Championships which were held concurrently with the IWF World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

She finished with a best of 114kg in the Clean & Jerk and a total lift of 198kg, both national records in the Women’s 55kg category but lost out on the gold medal to Olarinoye.

After that event, Bindyarani had spoken about the impact Mirabai, who won the gold medal on Saturday, has had on her. Mirabai, she added, helped her with technique and training and also bought her lifting shoes as she could not afford to buy them.

It took her only six months to improve on both her records as she recorded a 115kg Clean & Jerk lift and an aggregate of 199kg as she won the 55kg title in the Khelo India National-ranking women’s weightlifting championships in Himachal Pradesh.

It should be noted that the Women’s 55kg is a non-Olympic category. For Bindyarani, this was as big and lucrative an outing as any. She, however, rued the fact that she could not finish on top of the podium.

“I’m very happy to get a silver in my first CWG,” she was quoted as saying by ANI. “Today was my life’s best performance… gold slipped out of my hand. When I was at the podium, I wasn’t at the centre, I will do better next time.”

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