Records and firsts aplenty in Rio 2016 men’s weightlifting competition

Colombia’s Oscar Figueroa and Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Nurudinov became the first men from their countries to win weightlifting golds at Rio 2016, while China and Iran’s lifters collected two golds apiece and Georgia won two medals for the first time in any Olympic event in the heaviest category.

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The Rio 2016 men’s weightlifting competition got off to an auspicious start with a world record in the opening competition, the 56kg, the lightest of the eight categories. The man responsible for it was China’s Long Qingquan, who won the second gold of his Olympic career with a new world best of 307kg, eclipsing the old record, set by Turkey’s Halil Mutlu at Sydney 2000, by two kilograms. In lifting 137kg in the snatch and then raising  170kg with his final clean-and-jerk attempt, the 25-year-old Long beat defending champion Om Yun-Chol of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by four kilos, with Thailand’s Sinphet Kruaithong claiming the bronze with a total of 289kg.

The Beijing 2008 gold medallist and the 2009 world champion, Qingquan brought an end to Om’s long run of success in the division, the North Korean having won three straight world titles after his London triumph. “I am really happy and proud,” said Long. “I came to this competition with two dreams: to win the competition and to break the world record, and I did (both). The last four years have been quite tough for me because I did not make it to the Olympic Games in 2012 or the world championships and I wasn’t able to stand on the podium. I did not give up, though, and today I made it. Thank you very much.”

Gracious in defeat, Om said: “The strongest man was sitting by my side. The competition is over and there’s nothing more I can say. I’d just like to congratulate my Chinese opponent.” For his part, Kruaithong, was delighted to make the podium: “I’m very happy to win the bronze. I knew I had a chance in the competition.”

Tears of joy for Colombia’s Figueroa

A silver medallist in London four years earlier, Colombia’s Oscar Figueroa went one better to win 62kg gold in Rio and become his country’s first ever Olympic men’s weightlifting champion. Lifting 142kg in the snatch to take the lead in the competition, the 33-year-old Colombian sealed victory by housing 176kg in the clean and jerk, which he followed with three unsuccessful attempts at a world-record weight of 179kg. Finishing second behind him with a combined total of 312kg was Indonesia’s Eko Yuli Irawan, with Kazakhstan’s Farkhad Kharki pocketing the bronze, a further seven kilos adrift.

“This is the best thing I could have ever expected, for my country and for my family. I am just very happy,” said an emotional Figueroa. “It was very, very hard. The four years following my silver medal in London 2012 were filled with a lot of preparation and effort, but it all ended with big results.”

Irawan was pleased to be up on the podium with the Colombian: “I’m very happy with my silver medal, bearing in mind what I’ve been lifting in recent competitions. Even though I’m disappointed, I’m still proud of this medal. We are moving forward as a country with this medal.” Like Figueroa, Irawan also attempted to lift 179kg in the clean and jerk: “Obviously I try to excel myself, but going by my best performances, I didn’t really expect to lift that bar.”

Reacting to his bronze, Kharki commented: “I don’t feel anything special right now. I just want to go to sleep.”

Zhiyong takes inspiration from namesake to win 69kg gold

In winning the 69kg title, China’s Shi Zhiyong explained that he was inspired to take up weightlifting by the exploits of his illustrious namesake, who equalled the world record in landing the 62kg title at Athens 2004. The 23-year-old, who is often confused with his compatriot, even though he is 13 years his junior,  said the elder Shi had urged him to do justice to their name: “We met a few years ago, and he gave me his encouragement and support. He’s had a big influence on me. In 2012, he told me to go and live up to the name of Shi Zhiyong. That drove me to give my all and to never give up.”

Shi lifted 162kg in the snatch and 190kg in the clean and jerk for a title-winning total of 352kg, just one kilogram more than Turkey’s Daniyar Ismayilov, who led by a kilo after the snatch but could and jerk no more than 188kg. “It’s been my dream for the last three years and I’ve done it now. I’m so happy,” said Shi.

Kirghizistan’s Izzat Artykov won the bronze with a total of 339kg to give his country its first ever weightlifting medal. “It’s great news for me and for the whole of Kirghizistan. It means a lot to my compatriots and me.”

Rahimov wins on body weight

Kazakhstan’s Nijat Rahimov won 77kg gold by the narrowest of margins from defending champion Lyu Xiaojun of China, taking the title on body weight after the two had lifted the same total of 379kg. Rahimov set a new clean and jerk world record of 214kg, while Lyu earlier hoisted 177kg to post a new world best for the snatch. Egypt’s Mohamed Mahmoud completed the podium with a final total of 361kg.

“It is the most amazing feeling,” said the new Olympic champion. “I have been practising for two years. I have been practising in Azerbaijan and when I returned to Kazakhstan I continued to practise. I wanted to succeed with every attempt.” As it turned out, Rahimov failed just the once, with a snatch attempt of 168kg. His total of 165kg left him 12kg adrift of the Chinese, though the Kazakh erased that deficit with a flawless series in the clean and jerk, which concluded with his record-breaking lift.

Discussing his silver medal, Lyu said: “I was so happy with my total of 379kg. I won a medal and I’m happy with that. It’s reward for all the hours of training I put in. I would have liked the gold but China have done pretty well in weightlifting here in Rio. I’m 32 and at that age it’s an honour for me to be competing at the Games. That’s why I can’t stop smiling. I’ve won a medal and I’m not worried about the colour.”

Mahmoud’s bronze was Egypt’s second weightlifting medal of the day, coming after Sara Ahmed’s third place in the women’s 69kg. “Egypt has a proud tradition in weightlifting and I was pretty sure I could share in that glory tonight. I’m proud to represent my country, to make history for it again and to follow in the footsteps of Egyptian lifters who have tasted success in the past.”

Rostami betters own world record to clinch gold  

Iran’s Kianoush Rostami broke his own world record to win the men’s 85kg weightlifting title at and clinch what was his country’s first medal of Rio 2016. The 25-year-old Iranian, who finished with a bronze in the same weight category in London four years earlier, lifted 217kg with his final clean and jerk for a total of 396kg, beating his world record by a single kilogram. Tian Tao of China took silver with 395kg despite making only two of his six lifts, while Romania’s Gabriel Sincraian, who lifted a total of 390kg, claimed the bronze.

Though Rostami looked supremely confident throughout, he did admit to feeling slightly apprehensive about his chances: “I have lifted 225kg in training, but that 217kg was a challenge. Anything can happen.” After making his first two snatches with apparent ease, Rostami missed his third attempt and finished the snatch only a kilo ahead of Tian, who came desperately close to being eliminated after several failed attempts.

“I offer my congratulations to the winner and hope we have many more chances to compete against each other. I am confident I can beat him,” said the silver medallist. Rostami coaches himself, which made his achievement was all the more impressive, though he acknowledged that it presents its own challenges. “Nobody thought it was possible to come to Rio without a coach, but here I am. All the time I train alone, just me in a training camp. Nobody sees me. It can make your mind go a bit crazy, but I will be here again the next time for sure,” he said, looking ahead to Tokyo 2020.”

Moradi makes it two golds for Iranian weightlifting

In winning his gold, Rostami had predicted more glory for Iran’s lifters, which duly arrived in the 94kg, the next event on the schedule, with Sohrab Moradi hoisting a total of 403kg to by win 8kg, and with two lifts to spare, from Vladzim Straltsou of Belarus and Aurimas Didzbalis of Lithuania. “Now my wish is that Behdad wins his second gold medal, and makes it three for Iran,” said Moradi, who was cheered on by a sizeable Iranian contingent in the 5,000-strong crowd

The 27-year-old Moradi snatched 182kg and clean-and-jerked 221kg to clinch the gold, before having two attempts at a world-record clean and jerk of 234kg. A strain in his right thigh prevented him from coming close with either effort. Bronze medallist Didzbalis ended the competition in slightly better shape, performing a flying somersault after failing with his final clean and jerk. “I only do them when I win a medal,” he explained. “If I had finished fourth you wouldn’t have seen it.”

Nurudinov scores Uzbekistan’s first weightlifting title

Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Nurudinov opened his country’s Olympic weightlifting medal account with victory in the 105kg. Nurudinov won by a handsome margin of 14kg from Armenia’s Simon Martirosyan and Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Zaichikov. Leading the competition after lifting 194kg in the snatch, the Uzbek secured top spot on the podium with his second-last clean and jerk and then capped his performance with a crowd-pleasing third lift of 237kg to break the Olympic record.

Reacting to his commanding win, Nurudinov felt he could have performed even better: “I wanted much more. I wanted 243kg because I am lifting 240kg in training. I was out for two years because I had two operations on my left knee. I want to thank my German doctors for being so awesome.” Explaining his habit of poking his tongue out when he lifts, the Uzbek joked: “I’ve never bitten it yet. And smiling helps me to fight stress.”

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Teenager Martirosyan put in a remarkable performance in taking silver, posting a career-best total of 417kg to give Armenia their first medal at Rio 2016. Struggling to hold back his emotions, he said: “I’m the happiest man in the world. My dream was to have a gold Olympic medal, but I’m just 19 years old and I’m happy that an Olympic silver medal is mine.”

Bronze medallist Zaichikov would have combined for more than 416kg had his third clean and jerk lift not been overruled by the judges on account of him not fully extending his arms.

Georgia’s Talakhadze powers to +105kg gold and a world record

The final night of the men’s weightlifting tournament saw Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia post a world record in taking the men’s +105kg title. Compatriot Irakli Turmanidze won bronze, the first time in Olympic history that two athletes from Georgia had shared the same podium in any sport. Armenia’s Gor Minasyan split the Georgian duo to win his country’s second silver of the tournament.

Defending champion Behdad Salimikordasiabi of Iran had been in contention for medals but missed out after a jury overrule on his final clean and jerk attempt. The contest had started well for Salimikordasiabi, who lifted 211kg with his second snatch attempt, just 1kg short of the Olympic record, before Talakhadze threw down the gauntlet with a 215kg lift.

Salimikordasiabi replied by hoisting 216kg to set a new world mark and lead the field going into the clean and jerk. Two failed clean and jerk lifts of 245kg were followed by three white lights at that weight only for his successful lift to be overruled by all five members of the jury because his left arm was deemed to be not straight. That left Talakhadze to claim the Olympic gold with a 473kg total, eclipsing the 472kg world record set by another Iranian, Hossein Rezazadeh, at Sydney 2000. The Georgian made six good lifts in total, just as he had done in winning the 2016 European title.

After becoming the second athlete from Georgia to win a weightlifting gold medal, following Georgi Asanidze in the men’s 85kg Athens 2004, an ecstatic Talakhadze said: “I cannot really take in the situation right now. It was a special moment, especially because there were two Georgians on the podium together.” On beating the world total record of 472kg, he added: “I hope that this record stands and if it’s bettered, it’s bettered by me, although if somebody else does it then it’s OK with me, too.”

Silver medallist Minasyan finished 22kg behind Talakhadze, with Turmanidze third on 448kg. Brazil’s sole representative in the event, Fernando Saraiva Reis, sent the crowd into a frenzy whenever he approached the bar and finished in a very creditable fifth place.