China proves the powerhouse to beat in weightlifting

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Wang Zhouyu of China competes during the weightlifting women's 87kg event at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug. 2, 2021. (Xinhua/Yang Lei)

The Tokyo Olympics weightlifting tournament wrapped up on Wednesday with Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia taking the men's over 109kg category gold medal in an enthralling heavyweight contest in which three world records were set.

Talakhadze may have overwhelmed the opposition on the final night of competition, but the true weightlifting force at Tokyo Olympics was China.

Talakhadze set three world records for the snatch, clean andjerk and total, who recorded a total lift of 488kg to beat silver medallist Ali Davoud of Iran by 47kg.

Pressed on his ambitions for the future, the 27-year-old said he "definitely" intends to compete at Paris Olympics in 2024.

The event more than did justice to a remarkable 10-day, 14-category tournament that featured four world records and finished with weightlifting powerhouse China heading the medal table to make their own history by winning seven golds and one silver.

Zhou Jinqiang, Chairman of the China Weightlifting Association, told the press that his team had experienced many difficulties after the Rio Games. When the Tokyo Games postponed for one year due to the pandemic, the team suffered a great deal of injuries.

"Chen Lijun was injured last October during a national competition, but he quickly recovered and performed well at the Asian championships in April. Everyone was doing their best when preparing the Games," Zhou said.

Wang Zhouyu, the gold medallist in the women's 87kg category, said of her team's determination: "In our weightlifting team, when we go abroad for any competition, we want to first display China's strengths. Chinese athletes, each of them, are here for the gold medal."

Wang's teammate Lyu Xiaojun became the oldest weightlifting gold medallist in the history of the Games when he won the men's 81kg event at the age of 37. He still has ambitions in the sport, and may join Talakhadze at the Paris Olympics.

"Next year you may also see me at the world championships, so I may build a new legacy," Lyu said. "If you see me next year, you will see me in Paris," Lyu said.

China's quest for a clean sweep in the eight categories in which they competed was ruined by Hidilyn Diaz, who won the women's 55kg category with the final lift of the event to claim the Philippines' first Olympic gold medal.

"To all the young generation in the Philippines, please dream high. That's how I started; I dreamed high and finally I was able to do it," said Diza.

Chinese world champion Liao Qiuyun was gracious at the end of the night despite the last-minute manner of Diza's victory.

"I really enjoyed the Olympic Games and I did the best I can, " Liao said. "I really respect my opponent. I have no regrets, I got the silver medal." Liao said

Other firsts during the tournament included Polina Guryeva taking silver in the women's 59kg division to become the first athlete from Turkmenistan to win a medal of any kind at the Games, and Fares Ibrahim E H Elbakh in the men's 96kg event delivering a first Olympic gold medal for Qatar. 

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