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India at Asian Weightlifting Championships: Who's competing, what's at stake and why you should care

AP/PTI

The race for 2020 Olympic qualification is gathering pace and Indian lifters will be making their bid at the 10-day Asian Weightlifting Championships in Ningbo, China starting April 18. Here's all you need to know about the event.

What's at stake?

Tokyo Olympic spots. Here's the fine print, though: The tournament will not serve as a direct qualifier. It will be one among International Weightlifting Federation-designated six events, which athletes will require to compete in during the 18-month qualification period (November 1, 2018 to April 1, 2020) divided into three semesters of six months each. Events are categorised into Gold, Silver and Bronze depending on the level of competition. An athlete will have to participate in at least one event in each semester and four out of six best results logged in by an athlete will be considered.

What's the new Olympic qualification system?

The new qualification system with rejigged weight classes will be based on individual performances rather than aggregated team results at major competitions. For a sport that has been saddled with dope taint for the longest time, the new system was devised to bring athletes under regular in-competition doping control. Additionally, countries with multiple anti-dope violations between the start date of the 2008 Olympic Games and the end of the 2020 qualification period will have a truncated number of Olympic spots.

Countries with 20 or more violations (such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus) will have a maximum of two (one male + one female lifter) Olympic spots. Those with a 10-19 offence count (like India, Bulgaria and Uzbekistan) will be allowed four (two male + two female lifters) Olympic spots, instead of the maximum eight (four male + four female lifters).

How will spots be decided?

At the 2020 Olympics, there will be a total of 14 categories (seven each in men and women) and 14 lifters can qualify in each with a maximum of one lifter per country per category. The athletes' results will make up their absolute ranking points. These ranking points will be drawn from the level of competition (Gold, Silver and Bronze) that they participate in and the top-eight ranked lifters in each weight category will qualify. A lifter will be accorded more world ranking points for lifting the same weight at a Gold-level event than at a Silver- or Bronze-level competition. In addition, the highest-ranked lifter from each of the five continents will qualify.

Where do Asian Championships fit in?

It's a Gold-level event (made up of World and Continental Championships) and also the last qualifying competition of the first semester, which runs till April 30.

Who're the Indians to watch out for?

Former World and reigning Commonwealth Games champion Mirabai Chanu will be the biggest star of India's 12-member squad. Since her 48kg weight class -- which fetched her the Commonwealth Games record last year -- has been done away with for the Olympics, she has had to move up to the next weight category. She returned from a nine-month injury layoff following the Commonwealth Games to win gold in the 49kg at the EGAT Cup in Thailand in February this year. She'd lifted 82kg in snatch and 110kg in clean and jerk -- the total being just four kilos less than her personal best of 196kg at the 2017 World Championships. This time, she'd want to breach her personal best with coach Vijay Sharma spelling out her 210kg goal for the Olympics

Among male lifters, hopes will ride on 16-year-old Mizo teen Jeremy Lalrinnunga, who became India's first-ever gold medallist at the Youth Olympic Games last year. Commonwealth Games champion Satish Sivalingam has pulled out of the tournament over poor recent performance.

India's squad

Men: M Raja (61kg), Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg), Achinta Sheuli (73 kg), Ajay Singh (81 kg), Vikas Thakur (96kg), Pradeep Singh (102kg) Gurdeep Singh (+101kg)

Women: Mirabai Chanu (49kg), Jhilli Dalabehera (45kg), Swati (59kg), Rakhi Halder (64kg)