China's Li Zhuo, a 2002 Asian Games champion, debuts on Olympic arena in Athens Saturday to make her quest for the first gold in the power sport at the Games.
Shrugging off a huge pressure built up at the opening of weightlifting competition, Li had said she was strongly motivated to claim the coveted gold in the women's 48kg discipline, in whichshe is the current snatch and jerk world records holder.
She expects a tough competition from Aree Wiratthaworn of Thailand, a silver medalist for the total in the category at last year's World championships in Vancouver.
Vancouver Championships title holder in the division, Wang Mingjuan, failed to make the Chinese strongwomen's Olympics team due to injuries.
Other competitive opponents of Li Zhuo include Izabela Dragnevaof Bulgaria and Tara Cunningham of the United States.
Bulgaria's triumph in the 48kg class at the Sydney Olympics lasted only a few days, as the then 29-year-old Dragneva was stripped of her gold medal after failing a drug test.
Following a two-year ban, Dragneva returned to competition in 2002. In April, 2004, she claimed the European champion title in Kiev, Ukraine.
In Athens, Dragneva again faces Cunningham, who won the gold medal in Sydney, then named Tara Nott, after Dragneva's disqualification.
Among the 15 women lifters competing in this event, only Dragneva and Cunningham have Olympic experience.
Turkish young star, Nurcan Taylan, is determined to make her mark in this bodyweight class after dominating the 53kg category by winning six gold medals at the last two European Championships.
Chinese strongwomen had a clean sweep of four gold medals from as many categories they took part in at the Sydney Olympic Games four years ago. With an expectation of at least three golds from Athens, Chinese weightlifting team is in high spirit for a rivalryon the platform.
China sent four women lifters, including Chen Yanqing in 58kg, Liu Chunhong in 69kg and Tang Gonghong in over-75kg to challenge the limit of their lifting power in Athens.
"The principle of the training and trial is to vie with their own limit," said Chinese strongwomen's team head coach Li Shunzhu."They don't have to worry about the competitions or their rivals. They ought to attempt to lift the bar beyond their own limit."
The Athens Olympic weightlifting tournament, which produces 15 gold medals including eight from men's divisions, runs through tencompetition days from August 14 to 25, with rest days on August 17and 22.
The total number of participants in the Athens Olympics weightlifting is 260, of which 170 are men and 90 women.
(Xinhua News Agency August 14, 2004)