The China magic on show


RECORDS fell like nine pins as the Chinese lifters dominated the weightlifting competitions at the 14th Asian Games. The 10-day event witnessed as many as 18 new world records, besides nine new Asian and 65 Games marks.

China's Wu Meijin on way to a world record in the men's 56 kg category.-AP

China, a superpower at the world stage almost made a clean sweep in the women's section, striking gold in all but one of the seven weight categories, while in the men's section the Asian giant had three top podium finishes even as Kazakhstan picked up two and South Korea, Qatar and Iran one each.

But what gave an added dimension to the event, held at the Pukyong National University gymnasium, was the amazing show of strength displayed by the lifters in surpassing the old benchmarks. Undoubtedly, it was awe-inspiring all the way, much to the delight of the die-hards of this iron sport.

Never in the history of the sport have so many records been broken or tied in a single event, which goes a long way to prove that the Asian lifters, other than the Chinese, too are getting into their act of meeting the challenge from elsewhere.

Le Maosheng of China is jubilant after lifting 182.5 kg in clean and jerk in the men's 62 kg event.-AFP

In the men's section, the Chinese were unconquerable in the three lower weight categories. In the 56 kg class, the Chinese, though unlucky to lose the services of Wu Wenxiong at the end of the first stage itself - the lifter failing to clear the opening weight of 125 kg in snatch - still had in Wu Meijin a true champion. The 22-year-old totalled 292.5 kg, with lifts of 130 kg in snatch and 162.5 kg in clean and jerk, to finish a good 10 kg ahead of his immediate Chinese Taipei rival Wang Shin Yuan, who himself was separated from his compatriot Yang Chin Yi by 7.5 kg.

China's Le Maosheng, the winner in the 62 kg category, was the first to set a new world record in his section. His effort of 182.5 kg in the clean and jerk surpassed the previous best of 181 kg set by Genady Oleshchuk (Belarus) at last year's world championship in Antalya, Turkey. The 24-year-old from Beijing had a total of 322.5 kg as he won the gold, miles ahead of silver-medallist Im Youn-Su (North Korea) and bronze-medallist Cho Hyo-Won (South Korea).

The third Chinese winner among men was Zhang Guozheng, who, in the 69 kg division, shattered the Asian record in total by a modest 2.5 kg. The old record of 342.5 kg has been in the name of Wang Jianghui since 1999. Zhang, as he overcame this mark, had good lifts of 155 kg in snatch and 190 kg in the clean and jerk. Here again, Erwin Abdullah (Indonesia) and S. M. Panzvan Langroudi (Iran) were far behind their Chinese rival with a total of 332.5 kg and 325 kg respectively.

Qatari Assad Assad Said Saif was a surprise winner in the 105 kg category.-AFP

China was unlucky in the 77 kg category as its standard-bearer, Li Hongli, after creating a new world record in snatch (173 kg) and being in the joint lead with the eventual winner, Sergey Filimonov at the end of the first-half of competition, was forced out of the fray when he failed to clear 197.5 kg in all the three attempts of clean and jerk. Filimonov had lifts of 195 kg, 200 kg and 202.5 kg in his three attemps of clean and jerk and was an easy winner over Iranians Mohammed Barkhah and Nejad Falahati.

The South Koreans too had a lot to cheer as Song Jong-Shik topped the 85 kg section with a total of 372.5 kg. And the second win for Kazakhstan was registered by Bakhyt Akhmetov with an upset victory over the reigning world champion, Koroush Bagheri of Iran. Compared to Bagheri's total of 385 kg, Akhmetov finished with 400 kg - 185 kg in snatch and the rest from the clean and jerk.

Sun Ruiping of China (middle) set new world records in snatch, clean and jerk and total in the women's 75 kg section. Tatyana Khoromova (left) of Kazakhstan claimed the silver, while Soon Hee Kim of South Korea took the bronze medal.-AFP

There was yet another surprise in the 105 kg category where the Asian champion Cui Wenhua (China) and the Olympic champion Hossein Tavakoli (Iran) were pushed to the second and third spots by young Assad Assad Said Saif of Qatar, the reigning world junior champion. The Qatari had a total of 417.5 kg, while the Chinese finished with 415 kg and the Iranian 400 kg. However, in the 105 kg and above class, it was the world and Olympic champion Hossein Rezazadeh who triumphed over the rest with a classy performance, totalling 440 kg. A good 35 kg behind came Igor Vcheslavovich Halilov of Uzbekistan, while Munehiro Morita made sure of a medal for Japan, finishing third with 375 kg.

The competition in the women's section belonged entirely to the Chinese, though they suffered a big blow when Meng Xianjuan was pushed to the third spot in the 53 kg by Ri Song-Hui of North Korea and Udomporn Polsak of Thailand. Both the Chinese and the Thai women had finished with an identical total of 212.5, but what tilted the silver in favour of Polsak was her lower body weight. The North Korean, who was in tears as she received her country's first gold medal at the Games, had a world record of 102.5 kg in snatch even as she went ahead to lift a total of 225 kg.

North Korea's Ri Song Hui rewrote the record books in the women's 53 kg category.-V. SUDERSHAN

Li Zhou was also challenged by her rivals before she went on to win the 48 kg class. Here it was Myanmar's Kay Thi Win who tried her best to upset the Chinese and, though she was successful in lifting an identical total of 200 kg, like Li, the 21-year-old Chinese triumphed on account of her lower body weight. Perhaps, a bit unlucky was Rumbewas Raema Lisa of Indonesia who had looked quite good before she failed to clear her third attempt of 115 in clean and jerk. That would have lifted the Indonesian to the second place instead of the third with which she had to be content finally.

Zhou Yan had it easy in the 58 kg class, lifting a total of 220 kg, and so did Liu Xia - the winner in the 63 kg category - who set a new world record of 135.5 kg in clean and jerk, in her total of 240 kg. Liu Chunhong did one better than all her team-mates, coming up with three new world records en route to her success in the 69 kg category. And gone was the world record of Valentina Popova (Russia) as the 17-year-old came up with a sterling show in both snatch and clean and jerk. The Chinese teenager had the benefit of being pushed to her limits by Thailand's Pawina Thongsuk.

China's Tang Gonghong lifted a combined weight of 287.5 kg to win the women's over 75 kg gold.-REUTERS

But Liu's class was never in doubt as she went about lifting 115.5 kg in snatch and 148 kg in clean and jerk. Pawina had a lift of 115 kg in snatch and 145 kg in clean and jerk as she finished behind her Chinese opponent. Mya Sanda Oo of Myanmar was third with a total of 250 kg.

Like Liu, 21-year-old Sun Ruiping also set three new world records as she triumphed in the 75 kg in an overwhelming fashion. A lover of classical English poems and films, the Beijing-born lifter had a record lift of 118.5 kg in snatch (OR: 116 kg by Tang Weifang at Wuhan in 1999) and 152.5 kg in clean and jerk (erasing the world record of 143 kg held by Hungarian Gyongyi Likerecz since June this year) as she compiled the new mark of 270 kg, the total surpassing the old mark by a amazing 12.5 kg. Tatyana Khromova of Kazakhstan was second with a total of 257.5 kg ahead of Kim Soon-Hee (South Korea) who could compile only 242.5 kg.

That the Chinese have found a sound successor to world champion and Olympic gold-medallist, Ding Meiyuan, was evident from the composure shown by Tang Gonghong as she went on to win the +105 kg class with ease. The 23-year-old gangling lifter was never challenged by her rivals. She showed considerable grit and determination as she brought down the Games record in snatch (120 kg).

Starting off with 160 kg in her initial attempt, Tang then broke the existing world mark (165 kg) in her second trial and did one better in her third, lifting 167.5 kg. But for her failure to clear 130 kg in the third attempt of snatch, Tang would also have bettered the world record total (300 kg) by a fair range. That the second-placed Jang Mi-Ran (South Korea) could finish with only 272.5, 15 kg less than Tang, should by itself be a good assessment of the superiority of this Chinese winner. Mun Kyung-Ae, also of South Korea, was a distant third with at total of 252.5 kg.

The supremacy of the Chinese, underlined by the superb show of Liu Chunhong, Sun Ruiping and Tang Gonghong, was only expected. But that they went a long way in producing such attempts to better the existing world marks, at every turn, was what made the competitions all the more exciting.