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Rediff.com  » Sports » Records shatter, champions fall in weightlifting

Records shatter, champions fall in weightlifting

August 08, 2012 17:38 IST

The Olympic weightlifting competition ended with the crowning of a new super heavyweight champion and a frightening fall for the old one.

Iran's Behdad Salimikordasiabi won the last of 15 gold medals awarded in record-smashing barbell battles in London to remain unbeaten since 2009 in the sport's heaviest weight class.

Gold medalist Behdad Salimikordasiabi of Iran on the podium after winning the men's over 105-kg, group A, weightlifting competition on TuesdayBut the most stunning moment on Tuesday in the ExCel centre was when Matthias Steiner, gold medalist in 2008, lost his balance in his second lift and slipped to the ground with a 196-kilogram (432-pound) barbell crashing down on his neck -- a freak accident you rarely see in weightlifting.

Stunningly, the German got up moments later and was said to be not seriously injured, though he left the competition and was taken to a hospital for checkups.

"He is in a bit of pain in the back, and they don't want him to get a real heavy injury, and that is the reason he isn't starting again in the competition, and they have to look what happened," said Harold Strier, a spokesman for Germany's weightlifting federation.

London was not kind to defending champions, with one exception: The spiky-haired showman Ilya Ilyin of Kazakhstan, whose world record total in the 94-kilogram category would have been good enough to win gold in a higher weight class, too.

Most of those who tried to defend their Olympic titles fell in dramatic fashion.

South Korea's Sa Jae-hyouk appeared to pop his elbow in a hard-to-watch injury in the 77-kilogram class.

After finishing first in the snatch, Lu Yong of China was on track to repeat his 85-kilogram title when he choked and missed all attempts in the second lift, the clean and jerk.

Matthias Steiner of Germany gets hit by the weights while failing to make a successful lift in the men's over 105-kg, group A, weightlifting competition on TuesdaySouth Korea's Jang Mi-ran, long the queen of the women's super heavyweights, was battling for the medals to the end but finished fourth.

In that category, Chinese superwoman Zhou Lulu -- who does a Clark Kent-like transformation when she puts on her glasses -- triumphed over Russian rival Tatiana Kashirina in an epic showdown that saw both lifters set world records.

In all, six world records were registered in the men's competition and five in the women's. Another 22 results were Olympic records -- not a small feat considering a string of high-ranked lifters from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus withdrew from their weight groups.

"We are very happy with the Olympic Games," said Aniko Nemeth-Mora, a spokeswoman for the International Weightlifting Federation.

"The British audience was just incredible. ... I think weightlifting has recaptured Britain."

She noted with satisfaction that unlike some other venues, the weightlifting arena was nearly packed for just about every session.

Weightlifting officials would like to see the sport catch on again in countries including Britain and the US which dominated decades ago but have gradually lost interest amid the rise of other sports and the never-ending run of doping scandals tainting weightlifting.

The sport produced the first doping case of the London Olympics when Albania's Hysen Pulaku tested positive. No other weightlifter has been caught doping so far, though officials said the complete results of doping tests would not be ready until next week.

China, which amassed eight weightlifting gold medals in Beijing, won five in London, topping the medal standings ahead of Kazakhstan, with four gold, and North Korea with three.

Iran maintained tightened its grip on the men's super heavyweight class, with Salimikordasiabi and teammate Sajjad Anoushiravani finishing one and two, just like at the world championships last year.

Salimikordasiabi lifted 208 kilograms in the snatch portion and took 247 kilograms in his first attempt in the clean and jerk for a total of 455 kilograms. That's like lifting a male gorilla and a golf cart.

In a country where weightlifting champions are revered as national heroes, Salimikordasiabi, 22, predicted the Olympic glory would bring financial rewards and increased popularity.

"It will change my life a lot," he said. "However, not like other sports, like football. There's not that much money in weightlifting."

Photographs: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar andĀ AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

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