Charismatic North Korean Kim Un-guk and China’s Li Xueying broke a raft of records as they handed out a masterclass in weightlifting at the London Olympics on Monday.
Kim set a world record for the total thanks to equaling another in the snatch that was the basis for an emphatic victory in the men’s under-62kg class.
Li broke two Olympic records as she crushed her rivals on the way to claiming gold in the women’s under-58kg class in a third day of enthralling action at a packed Excel Centre.
While Li was understated in her performance, Kim was anything but as he whipped the 6,000-capacity stadium into a frenzy with his flamboyant showmanship at the barbell.
Kim snatched 153kg, a new Olympic record, to match Chinese lifter Shi Zhiyong’s world record and then went on to clean and jerk 174kg for a combined total of 327kg, beating the previous record best held by China’s Zhang Jie by 1kg.
Colombian Oscar Figueroa claimed a shock silver with a total of 317kg (140kg and 177kg), his clean and jerk a new Olympic record, while Indonesia’s Irawan Eko Yuli took bronze with 317kg (145kg and 172kg) on the bodyweight rule.
Each time he set foot on the podium, Kim grinned at the cheering crowd, a roar as he approached the barbell eliciting similar grunts in reply from the delighted spectators.
Kim’s reaction after each successful lift was one of unmitigated joy, prompting him to scream, shake his right fist over the bar and jump in the air, before rapidly skipping off the platform. The crowd, quite simply, adored it.
His superiority in the snatch saw him take a massive 13kg lead over Zhang, the favorite for the event, into the clean and jerk. The Asian Games champion failed with his third clean and jerk, missing a podium place by 3kg.
In the women’s competition, Asian Games champion Li, also the current world silver medalist, produced a stunning performance, recording a combined total of 246kg after snatching 108kg, then registering a best in the clean and jerk of 138kg. Both the snatch and total were Olympic records.
She narrowly missed a final clean and jerk at 144kg which would have given her the world record.
“I didn’t do well last year at the world champs and that was a hard lesson to learn,” said Li, playing down her superiority over the rest of the field. “In every competition, I try my best. I don’t pay attention to my rivals, strong or not. I was a little nervous because it’s my first Olympic Games. I was a bit hasty on my first snatch, I wasn’t quite as calm as normal.”
Thailand’s Pimsiri Sirikaew took silver with a total of 236kg (100kg and 136kg), while Ukraine’s Yuliya Kalina claimed bronze with 235kg (106kg and 129kg).
Taiwan’s Kuo Hsing-chun finished eighth after lifting 228kg (99kg and 129kg).
The gold medal showing was sweet revenge for Li over Belarus’ current world champion Natassia Novikava, who trumped the Chinese lifter at last year’s world championships in Paris.
Novikava dramatically saw her final clean and jerk ruled out by the judges after she tottered on the stage and the Belarus lifter missed out on the podium altogether, finishing down in seventh place.
Additional reporting by Staff writer