By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's bid to win their first Asian Games gold medal in weightlifting suffered a major jolt with women's 48kg world champion Mirabai Chanu pulling out of the competition with a back injury.
Expectation has been high since the Manipuri lifter added Commonwealth Games gold in April to her 2017 world championship triumph but a spinal spasm will keep the 24-year-old out of the Games in Indonesia beginning on Aug. 18.
"Owing to the severe back pain, entry... has been withdrawn," Indian Weightlifting Federation secretary general Sahdev Yadav said in a statement, adding the lifter was undergoing a rehabilitation programme.
Chief national coach Vijay Sharma has advised the federation against rushing Chanu's return and risk aggravating the injury.
In her email to the federation, Chanu said she wanted to focus on November's world championship in Turkmenistan instead as it would double up as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"Since there is no provision for replacement, we'd be sending four lifters, instead of five," Yadav told Reuters over telephone.
Chanu's withdrawal is a latest setback for the federation following the provisional suspension of two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sanjita Chanu whose A sample tested positive for an anabolic steroid in May.
Sanjita has denied charges of any wrongdoing and wants an inquiry into the matter.
Rakhi Halder, who will compete in 63kg, will be the lone woman Indian lifter at the Games. In men's competition, Sathish Kumar and Ajay Singh will compete in 77kg, while Vikas Thakur will participate in 94kg.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)