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First Olympic Champion crowned at Rio 2016


By Brian Oliver at Riocentro, Rio de Janeiro

Thailand’s Sopita Tanasan is from a family of boxers but she opted for a different sport and it paid off when she won the first weightlifting gold medal of the Rio Games, the women’s 48kg.

Tanasan, 21, lifted a total of 200kg to finish 8kg clear of Indonesia’s Sri Wahyuni Agustiani, who failed with her final attempt at 115kg. Japan’s Hiromi Miyake, competing in her fourth Games, won the bronze.

Thailand has won gold medals in only two sports, boxing and weightlifting. The boxing medals were all won by men and after Tanasan’s win on her Olympic debut they now have four in women’s weightlifting.

“I am from a boxing family, and there was no weightlifting at my school, but I liked weightlifting and I trained with my older sister,” she said. Her father represented Thailand as an international and her grandfather was also a boxer.

If Agustiani had made her 115kg clean & jerk she would have won, but it was too much. It was a nervy time for Tanasan, though she said, “I was always confident.” The silver medal for Agustiani equalled Indonesia’s best weightlifting performance at the Olympics.

There was a record for the American Morghan King, who finished sixth. Her snatch of 83kg beat her  national record, which was set by Tara Nott when she won gold at Sydney 2000.

China had the early favourite for the contest in Hou Zhihui, who lifted 210kg in her national championships in April, but sent her home from their training camp in Sao Paulo last week when they decided they had a better chance in the +75kg.

Hou injured her knee in July and although she was making a recovery Wang Guoxin, head coach of China’s women’s team, opted instead to send for Meng Suping. He said the decision was influenced by Hou’s fitness and also by Russia’s ban from Rio for “bringing the sport into disrepute” with their doping record.

Once that ban was confirmed it meant that the favourite in the +75kg, Tatiana Kashirina, would not compete. “Yes, Kashirina’s absence did give us a big opportunity to win in this division, because only Meng and Kashirina have the ability to lift over 300kg in total,” Wang told Xinhua news agency. Meng arrived in Rio on Saturday.

Another of Tanasan’s strongest rivals, Vietnam’s Thi Huyen Vuong, failed to register a total after three failures in the snatch. Margarita Yelisseyeva, of Kazakhstan, had finished 8kg behind Tanasan in the 53kg at the 2015 IWF World Championships but this time she was 14kg behind in fifth place.

Miyake, the oldest of the 12 competitors at 30, had suffered a back injury three months ago. She did well to win a medal and said, “That was tough for me.” When asked if she would attempt a fifth Olympic appearance in her homeland at Tokyo 2020, Miyake said, “I want to enjoy this medal first, and I will think about that when I return home.”