The weightlifters moved back to the forefront of things at the 2016 Olympics on Wednesday with the women’s 69kg and men’s 77kg finals taking place.
Xiang Yanmei from China and Zhazira Zhapparkul from Kazakhstan entered the women’s final as the headliners. Xiang won gold at the 2013 and 2015 world championships. The 22-year-old Zhazira Zhapparkul won gold at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and finished as a runner-up to Xiang at the world championships last year.
China also had its sights set on another gold on the men’s side from Lyu Xiaojun, who won this event in London four years ago. He had a disappointing turn at last year’s world championships, as he was unable to complete the clean-and-jerk lift, so Rio is his shot at redemption on the grandest stage in sports.
|2016 Olympics Results - Weightlifting|
|Women's 69kg Weight Class||Weightlifter||Total|
|Gold||Xiang Yanmei (China)||261kg|
|Silver||Zhazira Zhapparkul (Kazakhstan)||259kg|
|Bronze||Sara Ahmed (Egypt)||255kg|
|Men's 77kg Weight Class||Weightlifter||Total|
|Gold||Nijat Rahimov (Kazakhstan)||379kg|
|Silver||Lyu Xiaojun (China)||379kg|
|Bronze||Mohamed Mahmoud (Egypt)||361kg|
Men's 77kg Results
Things did not play out as expected in the men's 77kg finals, though it was not because of anything Xiaojun failed to accomplish.
On the contrary, the defending gold-medal winner in this event was masterful. He ended the snatch with a world-record lift of 177kg and appeared as if he would be able to cruise to another Olympic victory.
AFP's Peter Hutchison made a comparison that seemed apt at the time because Xiaojun looked as close to unbeatable as a weightlifter can get without actually having the medal in his hands:
The clean and jerk was yet another masterful effort for Xiaojun. He got up 202kg with no problems and his total score of 379kg matched his winning total from London.
Unfortunately for Xiaojun, he didn't account for Kazakstan's Nijat Rahimov deciding to set a new world record on the clean and jerk by clearing 214kg that brought his total up to 379kg.
Since both Xiaojun and Rahimov wound up with the same combined score, official rules dictate that the lifter whose body weight is lower becomes the winner. Rahimov entered the event as the slightly smaller man, which wound up paying huge dividends for him when all was said and done.
Rahimov celebrated in appropriately giddy style:
Xiaojun had nothing to be upset about. He had the weightlifting equivalent of a 20-strikeout game. His only problem is the other guy pitched a perfect game.
Egypt's Mohamed Mahmoud was able to get his country its second medal of the day and Olympics thanks to his strong 361kg total. His fellow countrywoman Sara Ahmed stunned the world during the women's 69kg competition to also procure a bronze medal.
Women’s 69kg Results
The back-and-forth battle between Xiang and Zhapparkul in the snatch was something to behold.
Xiang started things out on the right foot, taking the early lead in the snatch with 113kg lifted clean. Zhapparkul immediately responded by lifting 115kg on her second attempt, which led to Xiang coming back with 116kg.
That would turn out to be the last straw for Zhapparkul, who was unable to counter in her final attempt to lift 117kg, but she still finished with a strong 115kg snatch to be in a good position heading into the clean and jerk.
Xiang also left the door slightly ajar for Zhapparkul by failing on her third attempt to get 118kg off the ground. Egypt’s Sara Ahmed was quietly lurking in third place with a brilliant snatch of 112 kg, made even more impressive because her body weight (68.00kg) is lower than Yanmei (68.78) and Zhapparkul (69.00).
Things played out exactly as expected through the clean and jerk. Xiang executed her first two lifts with ease, including the 145kg weight on her second attempt that secured the gold medal.
She attempted 147kg on the final attempt but opted to throw the weight down and appearing to momentarily grab her back. It was the second near-injury for the 24-year-old, as she appeared to drop the barbell on the back of her head and neck in her final attempt on the snatch.
The final lift for Xiang was a mere formality, as she had already secured the gold medal by that point anyway with a total lift of 261kg between the snatch and clean-and-jerk lift.
Zhapparkul did live up to her promise, as well, securing her first career medal in the Olympics with a total lift of 259kg. She did get up to 144kg in the clean and jerk but could not quite get over that hump to knock off Xiang.
There was drama for the bronze medal with Ahmed squeaking by Colombia's Leidy Yesenia Solis Arboleda after Arboleda was unable to successfully secure her last attempt in the clean and jerk.
Ahmed, who is just 18 years old, became the first Egyptian to medal in Rio and gave the country its first medal in weightlifting since 1948.