India's Olympic hero Mirabai says Tokyo silver built on Rio failure

Mirabai Chanu Saikhom of India reacts after winning Tokyo Olympics silver medal in women's 49kg weightlifting on 24 JulyReuters

India's Olympic weightlifting hero Chanu Saikhom Mirabai said her silver medal at Tokyo 2020 had been five years in the making since she missed out on an Olympic medal in Rio.

Mirabai, 26, finished second behind gold medallist Hou Zhihui of China in the 49kg women's wrestling on day one of the Olympic weightlifting competition.

Congratulations poured in, including from cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar who said she had made India "very proud".

"I had worked hard for Rio but it was just not to be, but from that day onwards I thought of winning in Tokyo and fulfil my dream of an Olympic medal," Mirabai told reporters.

"I am here because of what I had learned in Rio."

Mirabai, the 2017 world champion at 48kg, had failed to finish in the 2016 Olympics after recording no clean lifts in three clean and jerk attempts.

But she came back strong to aggregate 202kg in Tokyo and become a national hero at becoming India's first weightlifting silver medallist, after Karanam Malleswari's bronze in the women's 69kg at Sydney 2000.

Mirabai, whose family recognised her talent early when she carried huge logs of firewood which her elder brother found tough to pick, will be rewarded with $70,000 from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

"I would like to dedicate this medal to my country and would like to thank the billion prayers of all Indians which were with me during this journey," Mirabai wrote on Twitter.

"I like to thank my family especially my mother for a lot of sacrifices and believing in me."

Mirabai said her family in the north-eastern state of Manipur had not eaten anything till her competition finished and her mother has promised to cook her fish and rice when she returns.

She also told NDTV that she will gorge on pizza after missing meals for two days.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi led the tributes and spoke to the weightlifting star as he wished her "the very best for her future endeavours".

Tendulkar lauded Mirabai's achievements, saying: "The way you have transformed yourself after your injury and clinched a historic silver for #TeamIndia is absolutely stupendous. You have made (India) very proud."

Mirabai won silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 in the 48kg class and secured Commonwealth gold on the Gold Coast in 2018.

India, the second-most populous country in the world with 1.3 billion people, won just two medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

But pundits and IOA president Narinder Batra have predicted the country's medal count in Tokyo could reach double digits.