History of Indian Women at the Worlds
Indian women have had some success at the World Weightlifting Championships since 1989 with winning a total of 16 medals at weightlifting’s biggest event till now. Kunjarani Devi, Karnam Malleswari, Lalita Polley, Bharti Singh, Neelam Setti Laxmi and Saikhom Mirabai Chanu are the winners who secured medals at the said tournament.
The Indian women’s squadron is all set to make their mark in the forthcoming World Weightlifting Championships, which starts from September 18 in Thailand. The event will conclude on the 27th of the same month, with Padma Shri awardee Saikhom Mirabai Chanu spearheading the seven-member Indian contingent.
The Indian squad, which has already started their training in Thailand, features four women lifters for the biggest event in weightlifting calendar. The tetrad of World Weightlifting Championships gold medallist, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu (49kg), Asian Weightlifting Championships silver medallist, Jhilli Dalabehera (45kg), Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships gold medallist, Sneha Soren (55kg) and Rakhi Halder (64kg) will represent India in the women’s category.
India has won a total of 16 medals across the history of women’s World Weightlifting Championships, the first of which was won by the most decorated Indian lifter Kunjarani Devi in 1989 in Manchester, England. Let’s take a walk down the memory lane of India’s success at the most esteemed event in weightlifting.
India’s most celebrated weightlifter and Padma Shri awardee Kunjarani Devi was the first lifter from the nation to earn a medal at the world championships. Kunjarani Devi is the first Indian lifter to make a mark on the world map, winning a silver medal in the 44-kg weight category, lifting 132.5 kg in the 1989 edition of the coveted world championship in Manchester, England.
After a promising run in Manchester, Kunjarani participated in six consecutive world championships, with an exception of the 1993 edition in Melbourne, Australia. She won medals in every one of those big-ticket events. However, Kunjarani failed to finish at the top spot, always finding contentment with Silver medals.
The first Indian women to win a medal at the Olympics, Karnam Malleswari is also a Padma Shri awardee. Malleswari won the Bronze medal in the 54 kg division after lifting a total lift of 177.5 kg at the 1993 championships in Melbourne, Australia. Since then, Malleswari won medals in three consecutive world championships.
After leaving a mark in the previous World Weightlifting Championships, Malleswari earned the first Gold medal for India in the 1994 edition of weightlifting’s biggest event in Istanbul, Turkey. She lifted a total of 197.5 kg in the 54 kg category.
The 44-year-old lifter from Andhra Pradesh defended her Gold medal at the 1995 Weightlifting Championships in Guangzhou, China as her last lift Gold medal of 197.5 kg in the 54 kg division would have been enough to get to the top spot on the podium but she lifted a total of 202.5 kg . However, Malleswari failed to repeat her result as she had to be content with a Bronze medal in the 1996 edition of the championships, which was again hosted by Guangzhou, China.
Lalita Polley is the first Indian weightlifter to win a medal in the lightweight category at the World Weightlifting Championships. Polley won the Bronze medal at the 1989 edition of weightlifting’s most prestigious tournament. After a second highest snatch of 77.5 kg in the 56-kg weight category, Lalita Polley could make it to the Bronze medal with a clean & jerk lift of 87.5 kg, making the total lift of 160 kg.
Bharti Singh is the only Indian lifter to win a medal in the heavyweight category. She won the second Bronze medal for India at the 1993 World Weightlifting Championships in Melbourne, Australia. A clean & jerk of 117.5 kg put Bharti Singh third on the podium with a total lift of 207.5 kg in 83-kg weight division.
Neelam Setti Laxmi is the most successful Indian lifter in the lightweight category. She is also the last weightlifter to win a medal in the lightweight category. Neelam Setti Laxmi won a Silver Medal at the 1995 World Weightlifting Championships in Guangzhou, China. Laxmi lifted a total weight of 202.5 kg in the 59-kg category.
Neelam Setti Laxmi also earned a Bronze medal at the 1997 Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand. After lifting a second highest snatch of 100 kg, Laxmi had to settle with Bronze as she could manage a clean & jerk lift of 117.5 kg with a total of 217.5 kg.
Mirabai Chanu, who will lead India’s chances at the 2019 World Weightlifting Championships became the first Indian to win the world championships since Karnam Malleswari in 1995.
At the age of 23, Chanu won the Gold medal in the Women’s 48 kg category after lifting a competition record total of 194 kg, 85 kg in snatch and 109 kg in clean & jerk in the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, CA, United States of America. Chanu lifted 1 kg more than Thailand’s Thunya Sukcharoen, who stood second on the podium. For her biggiest achievement at the World Championships, and later a gold at the Commonwealth Games 2018, Chanu was also awarded Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2018.