Mirabai Chanu has won the Commonwealth Games gold medal around 9 pm in Birmingham. After adding every ounce of his power to 394kg in four successful lifts and 205kg in two unsuccessful lifts, you’d probably forgive him for trying to escape the wide world of fan selfies and autograph requests.
But here Mirabai leaned in to pose with a young girl of Indian origin, standing behind a banner asking for a funky picture setting from a local volunteer, for a click to everyone. Equally fresh was bringing a smile from the podium to demand a click. met them. She even split with an English kid interested in gymnastics, who had come to see the Indian work her way up in weightlifting.
In the trendy hashtag sporting world of Instagram Live and YouTube videos, it can be rare to find people championing; A fan favorite that makes time for that particular fan personally, and not just on the TV screen. Mirabai is even more one on the world stage after her Tokyo Olympic achievement.
Fans see an achiever in Mirabai, Mirabai sees a friend in fans.
“When fans come up to me and recognize me, it is very important to me. I also feel proud, I feel that I have achieved something in life if they are able to recognize me,” says Mirabai. “They give me so much love. They treat me like their friend. For me, friends are very important in life, people who love and support me for who I am.”
Surely, though, after an afternoon of high-quality weightlifting, an evening of post-win rituals and recovery sessions, you might turn your back at some point to call it a night?
“I can’t say no to them (I can’t say no to them). They talk to me with so much love, I can never say no. The audience is very important to me. It’s because of them that this medal means a lot. He has a different look on his face when he sees me. Achcha lagta hai (I love it). I am glad that people come to meet me,” she says.
His Tokyo silver means those people are not limited to the 27-year-old’s home country. They are spread far and wide – from Tashkent to Singapore to Birmingham. Some young Englishmen go to Mirabai and help her in her snatching attempts on Saturday. “Thank you very much,” replies Mirabai repeatedly. They then hesitantly ask if she would be okay to click a picture with him. Mirabai is bound voluntarily.
Mirabai herself can feel the change in popularity not only mathematically but also geographically.
“Yeah, it has changed for me after Tokyo. There are so many fans who follow me, so many who recognize me, so many who support me, so many who inspire me from all over the world. Me Feel great about it, for now,” Mirabai said with a laugh.
Mirabai’s deep connection with the fans also brought tears to the podium while the Indian national anthem was being sung by the Indian audience at the NEC Hall. “It was the best feeling for me. This is the first time I have seen anything like this and felt this kind of support from the audience, we are all singing the national anthem together,” she says.
Of all the fan following that followed, Mirabai says she hasn’t spoken to her mother since the finale. “Kaha time mila hai (where have I got time),” she says.
For the Mirabai Chanu fan, however, there is much more.