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Six different medallists and a big surprise in men’s 77kg

By Brian Oliver at the George R Brown Convention Center, Houston, Texas

Six different nationalities were represented in the medal ceremony for a remarkable men’s 77kg. The world record holder failed to make a total, a Kazakhstan athlete who was once a flag-bearer for Azerbaijan won, an Egyptian who moved up from 69kg only six months ago finished third, and a lifter from the B Group was on the podium.

Lu Xiaojun from Chjina, the Olympic and Asian Games champion who set the snatch and total world records in the 2013 IWF World Championships, looked set for victory when he took the snatch gold with 175kg. He missed a world record attempt at 177kg, then failed with all three clean & jerks at 201kg. He complained later of a knee injury.

Kim Kwang Song, of PR Korea, second in the snatch, also failed in his first attempt at 201kg but when he made it with his final lift he went into the lead. Only Nijat Rahimov, with two lifts to come, could beat him and to do so he would have to go up 12kg from 195 to 207. Amazingly, he did it with his first try, and even had a go at the world record on 211kg, which he failed.

“I was very surprised,” said Kim. “I was expecting just to compete against China. I have never been in a competition with so many rivals and I offer my congratulations to the winner.”

Rahimov, who won on body weight on 372kg, had carried the flag for Azerbaijan at the 2013 Universiade. He had a falling-out with Azerbaijan’s coaches and switched nationality in the summer. “I moved because the coaching in Kazakhstan is better,” he said.

The bronze went to Mohamed Ihab of Egypt, who also deserved a gold medal for best celebration of the week. He screamed, jumped, clapped his hands and kissed the floor when he made his third clean & jerk at 201kg – cheered all the while by a large and appreciative crowd. He then watched his rivals fail with lifts and danced around the warm-up room when he was sure of a medal.

Ihab moved up from 69kg only six months ago and said afterwards, “I kept saying to my coach in training 200, 200 I can do it. But he said no, wait for competition. I wanted to compete in the African Championship and again he said no, you can win a medal in the World Championships.

“I had one chance. The coach told me ‘Now, this time, go!’ My blood was hot and I did it. I am so happy, my mother is so happy.” Ihab set national, African and Arabic records for snatch, clean & jerk and total.

There was a silver medal for a B Group lifter in the clean & jerk. Elkhan Aligulizada, of Azerbaijan, came from the audience on to the podium when only Rahimov beat his 203kg. The Armenian teenager Andranik Karapetyan took snatch bronze.