Imphal, August 7: India's Asian Games preparations suffered a major blow when world champion and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist weightlifter Mirabai Chanu pulled out of the quadrennial extravaganza due to a backache.
The 23-year-old had complained of discomfort in her lower back in May. The injury had since puzzled doctors across the country, who were unable to diagnose the cause.
Mirabai wrote to the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to give her time to recover from the injury and to prepare herself for the Olympics qualifiers, slated to be held later this year.
Weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu will not participate in the Asian Games. She had written a letter to Indian Weightlifting Federation requesting them to give her rest as she is not currently fit, owing to a backache, and wants to prepare for Olympics qualifier. (file pic) pic.twitter.com/7Q198b9Yka— ANI (@ANI) August 7, 2018
Confirming the news, IWF Secretary General Sehdev Yadav said, "Yes, she is not going to participate in the Asian Games and I am going to send an official mail to the government."
The Manipur girl's absence from Asian Games is a huge setback for India, as she was considered as one of the strongest contenders for a gold medal in the event.
In November, Mirabai had clinched India's first gold at the World Championship in 22 years after lifting a new world record of 194kg (85kg+109kg) at Anaheim, USA.
She then bagged the gold at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Gold Coast, Australia, in April, by lifting a personal best of 196kg (86kg+110kg), a national record.
After coming back from the CWG, Mirabai headed straight to the training centre at Shilaru, Himachal Pradesh.
Mirabai had also requested the Sports Ministry to install CCTV cameras in her room and training hall as she feared her food could be spiked to implicate her in a doping scandal.
Apart from Mirabai, Rakhi Halder(63kg), CWG gold-medallist Sathish Sivalingam and Ajay Singh (both 77kg) and CWG bronze-medallist Vikas Thakur (94kg) have been selected to take part in the Asian Games.
The 2018 Asian Games are scheduled to be held from August 18 to September 2 in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang.
It is presumed that Mirabai pulled out after India chief coach Vijay Sharma recommended that she withdraw from Jakarta event to be fit for the Olympic qualifiers, later this year.
"I have submitted a report to the federation. Now they have to take a decision. I am of the opinion that in such less time it's not good to take a heavy load. The Olympic qualifiers event is approaching and that is more important than the Asian Games," Sharma had said.
The World Championship, scheduled to be held in Ashgabat from November 1, will be the first Olympic qualifying event this year.
(With inputs from Agencies)