World champion Indian weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu was out of action for more than half of 2018 due to her lower back injury. But bouncing back stronger after the injury lay-off, the 24-year-old Manipuri showcased her strength once again by snatching a gold medal at the EGAT Cup in Thailand last week.

She lifted 192 kg in the silver level Olympic qualifying event, not close to her personal best of 196 kg. But considering four months of rehabilitation and just three months of training, Chanu is happy with her performance. More so, because she once thought that the injury was the end of her career.

“The training before the tournament was only 60% to 70% of my what my actual training before injury,” Chanu tells The Sunday Guardian, adding, “Though it was not on par with my previous performances, but considering the four-month injury lay-off period, I am happy with the output.”

Recalling her “painful” injury time, due to which she had to miss the world championships and Asian Games last year, Chanu says she had thought that she would not be able to lift again.

“It was so difficult. I thought I would not be able to make it and that this was my end. I was through a lot of pain and I was not recovering. When it got a slightly better, I started training again and the pain resurfaced. I thought I would not be able to lift again.”

She expressed her gratefulness to her family and coach Vijay Sharma for providing her the much-needed mental strength in her difficult time. “My family used to tell me that maybe this injury is to make me stronger for the future and for the betterment.”

Having recovered from the injury, the 2018 Commonwealth Gold medalist is now training hard for the Asian Championship to be held in China in April. “My next target is Asian Championship. As it is just a month away, I will be training harder for it now.”

Chanu says, if she puts a formidable performance in China, it will strengthen her case to win a medal at the 2020 Olympics. “Usually it is seen that a player who bags a gold medal at Asian Championship also wins at the Olympics. Asian countries are very dominating in weightlifting. So this competition will be very important for me,” she signs off.