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Chinese Weightlifters End Athens Mission with Five Golds
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Capping Chinese weightlifters' gold rush at Athens Games and hoisting the 100th gold medal of the nation's delegation at all Olympics since 1984, Tang Gonghong Saturday brought the fifth gold to the Chinese weightlifting team which remains on top of the medal ladder, so far.

The Chinese lifters, defending the glory of the power sport powerhouse, repeated their feat at the Sydney Games where they scored a clean sweep in the four women's categories and earned one gold for men.

The men's squad makes a breakthrough in Athens, expanding their winning turf with one more gold than in Sydney.

Chen Wenbin, deputy head coach of the Chinese strongmen's team,attributed the achievements to the overall improvement of competitiveness over the four years since the Sydney Games.
"We wouldn't say we dominated any category for the men in Sydney," Chen said. "But the four years did see a much improved performance."

The strongmen showed their prowess in lighter divisions.

As Wu Meijing, the silver medalist in the men's 56kg, challenged the legendary Turkish weightlifter Halil Mutlu, Shi Zhiyong and Le Maosheng dominated the men's 62kg category, securing a gold and a silver.

Zhang Guozheng, a veteran world champion, cemented the momentum, claiming a gold in the men's 69kg class.

As the strongmen achieved their high expectations of raking in two golds at the Athens Games, the strongwomen almost fulfilled their ambition of a clean sweep.

However, a much better than expected performance of Nurcan Taylan, the Turkish gold medalist in the women's 48kg discipline, surprised the Chinese team.

As Li Zhuo, the hottest ticket before the competition in the women's 48kg, had to be landing on a silver, uncertainty overcasted the Chinese lifters following the opening of the AthensGames weightlifting competitions.

It was Chen Yanqing who revived the expectation of the Chinese team.

Chen, a comeback lifter who overcame a mounting pressure built up on her Olympics debut, lived up to the strongwomen's reputation of "dream team" by winning a much needed gold in the women's 58kg class at the Athens Games.

Chinese Hercules Liu Chunhong later lifted three world records on her way to winning the women's 69kg category gold medal. Her easy lifts consolidated Chinese strongwomen's dominance in several categories at the Olympics.

Now, it was Tang Gonghong's turn on Saturday in the women's super heavy weight over-75kg category to bring the weightlifting powerhouse to a gold conclusion at the Athens Games.

It took world records for Tang Gonghong to raise the 100th gold for the Chinese delegation at all Olympics since 1984 when she thrilled spectators by fighting from behind.

Clinching the gold in the women's over-75kg class at the Athens Games, she eclipsed the previous world records in the clean and jerk (175.0kg) by 7.5kg and improved the world record in total from 302.5 to 305.

Witnessing rapid growth of rivals' showing at the Games, the Chinese lifters and their coaches were determined to carefully review the performances of themselves and their opponents.

"There are problems that we've got to address," said Wang Yan, an official with the Chinese weightlifting team. "We'll work out our strategy to handle the new challenges that came out at the Olympics."

The Athens Olympics, running from August 13 to 29, has a total of 15 golds on offer in this power sport.

During the Athens Olympics, weightlifting is held in the Nikaia Olympic Weightlifting Hall.
The competition schedule runs through 10 competition days, from August 14 to 25, with rest days on August 17 and 22.

The Olympic weightlifting competitions are organized for eight bodyweight categories for men, including 56, 62, 69, 77, 85, 94, 105 and over-105kg, and seven bodyweight categories for women, 48,53, 58, 63, 69, 75 and over-75kg.

(Xinhua News Agency August 22, 2004)


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