Weightlifting: China poised to extend dominance

Weightlifting powerhouse China looks set to extend its dominance in the sport when the Rio Games begin on Saturday, after topping the medal table at every Olympics since 2000 in Sydney.

North Korea's Om Yun-chol will look to extend his impressive run in the men's 56kg, having taken gold in London and at the 2013 and 2015 world championships.   -  AP

Weightlifting powerhouse China looks set to extend its dominance in the sport when the Rio Games begin on Saturday, after topping the medal table at every Olympics since 2000 in Sydney.

After taking five golds in London four years ago, China is in Brazil with a full contingent of 10 lifters and all but three have won Olympic or world championship titles - highlighting the nation's depth in multiple weight classes. “In the country they have an impressive amount of good lifters so even internally the competition is tough,” Lilla Rozgonyi of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), the sport's governing body, told Reuters.

China is the only country with a full team, partly because quotas were removed from some nations over doping violations, which have cast a cloud over the sport in the run-up to Rio.

Russia is the most high profile team to be banned from the Games after that country's doping scandal, but weightlifters from nations including Azerbaijan and Bulgaria have also been excluded because of violations.

Among divisions to watch, China's Lu Xiaojun will aim for his second straight Olympic gold in the men's 77kg, and Iran's Kianoush Rostami and China's Tian Tao are expected to go close to world records in the men's 85kg.

Elsewhere, North Korea's Om Yun-chol will look to extend his impressive run in the men's 56kg, having taken gold in London and at the 2013 and 2015 world championships, while Iran's Behdad Salimi will seek to defend his title as strongest man, in the +105kg.

Chinese lifters have also been a formidable force since women's weightlifting debuted at the Olympics in 2000, accounting for at least half of their country's golds each time.

Deng Wei in the 63kg class and Xiang Yanmei in the 69kg division will be making their Olympic debuts after both won gold at last year's world championships and will start as favourites in Rio.