New Delhi: Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju Tuesday said India has the potential to give traditional weightlifting powerhouses such as China and North Korea a run for their money.
India returned from the Commonwealth Championship in Apia, Samoa with a rich tally of 35 medals in the youth, junior and senior categories, breaking numerous national, Commonwealth, world and Asian records.
The sports minister spent time talking to the 37-member contingent and congratulating them on their achievements.
"Good performances in tournaments are good signs. India can become the weightlifting powerhouse in the coming days," Rijiju said.
"We can have a very close competition with China and North Korea. India has the potential and I want that we should be at the top and get number of medals in the Olympics," he added.
India has traditionally been a frontrunner in the Commonwealth tournaments in weightlifting while country's like China, South Korea and North Korea dominate the global events.
However, recent results show that India is making steady progress in senior and junior categories led by former world champion Mirabai Chanu and Youth Olympics gold medallist Jeremy Lalrinnunga, respectively.
In the Asian Championships in April, Mirabai had missed out on a medal by whisker. The 25-year-old had lifted 199kg (86kg+113kg) but lost out to China's Zhang Rong, who also lifted the same total, owing to a lower clean and jerk result.
"The main weightlifting challenge comes from the Asian countries. I feel we will win a medal in weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics."
Lauding the efforts of the lifters, Rijiju said the government is keen on finding ways to enhance the performance of the weightlifters with key emphasis on the youth and junior categories.
"The team has performed really well in Commonwealth Championship in senior and junior categories. India is the number one team in the Commonwealth now."
"We are doing whatever we can to help these athletes. Attention must be paid tot the the youth as they are the next generation and they will take us forward," he said.