Zhou Lulu: A big girl with a big heart

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Zhou Lulu of China poses at awarding ceremony of women's +75kg weightlifting competition, at London 2012 Olympic Games in London, Britain, on August 5, 2012. Zhou Lulu claimed title in this event. [Liu Dawei/Xinhua]

Chinese lifter Zhou Lulu proved herself the strongest woman on earth by lifting a total of 333kg in the over 75kg division, the largest among all women's weightlifting categories, breaking her own total world record of 328kg to win gold at the London Olympics on Sunday.

Zhou fought a uphill battle against Tatiana Kashirina of Russia, who snatched a world record 151kg to establish a 5kg lead over Zhou at the halfway mark. Kashirina maintained the lead with a second attempt of 181kg in clean-and-jerk to set a world record for the total with 332kg.

The pressure was on Lulu.

"Fang Song!" Zhou shouted to herself every time before she grabbed the bar. It was "relax" which she meant, and she managed to put down the pressure and pick up the weight. She responded with 187kg in jerk, equalling the clean-and-jerk world record and increasing the total record to 333kg. Kashirina tried to regain the lead with a final attempt at 187kg which proved too heavy and handed the gold medal to Zhou.

"I am really happy. The gold medal weighs more than the weights," Zhou said.

Born in China's eastern Shandong province, Zhou took up the sport when she was 11 years old, but she found it hard to like it because the training was too hard. But when Tang Gonghong, who was also from Shandong, won the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, Zhou's attitude to the sport changed.

"I gradually come to like weightlifting," the 22-year-old recalled.

Speaking on her performance at London, she said, "Today I'm not very happy with my snatches, but I have confidence in clean-and-jerk because I jerked 190kg during training. I'm glad the gold medal in this category is back to China again after Tang's victory in 2004."

The Olympic champion, who stands 1.75 meters and weighs 131kg, said she really loves the sport of weightlifting now.

"I like weightlifting and I enjoyed competition. During training, I am a cautious person who never asks for adding more than 5kg after succeeding the previous lift. But in real event, I love intense competition and feel like I can lift up everything."

"And when you like weightlifting you do not think about body shape or whether it's feminine," said Zhou, saying that she loves shopping but had not had time to do so in London.

"I am a pisces so I like romantic and pretty stuff. I also love shopping but I usually don't buy, because I can seldom find the suitable clothes. I just like being a company with my friends when we shop."

Speaking on being titled "the strongest woman on the planet", she said, "I'm ok if you call me so, after all I am the largest girl in the Chinese delegation who wears size 5XL."

"My family owns an orchard where they grow apples. I tried to go there and work for a while and help them out, but when I entered the orchard I was too big," she said.

"Every time I turned around I would knock something over or hit one of the trees so all the apples would come tumbling down and I would step on them. So my parents told me to come out and just stop. I was doing more harm than good."

Before returning back to China the next day after she won, Zhou said the one thing she has to do is to shop at the airport.

"I have kept training since I got here, I will certainly remember to buy some gifts for my friends," she said.

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