World record for Rostami, and Valentin’s bronze ‘feels like gold’
By Brian Oliver at Riocentro, Rio de Janeiro
Kianoush Rostami broke his own world record, Iran and PRK won their first
gold medals of the Games, a Romanian had a six-out-of-six bronze, and Lidia
Valentin finally got her chance to stand on the Olympic podium on an
exciting day of action at Riocentro.
Rostami won the 85kg when he lifted 217kg with his final clean & jerk for a
total of 396kg, better than his record by 1kg. He predicted more gold for
Iran, who have favourites in the 94kg and +105kg in Sohrab Moradi and
“We will see more gold medals, and more world records for Iran,” he said.
“Now that I have won I’m sure to others will win too.”
In her third Olympics Valentin finished third in the women’s 75kg behind
Rim Jong Sim of PRK and Darya Naumava of Belarus. Naumava, 20, was winning
her nation’s first medal of the Games in any sport, only five years after
giving up the shot put to become a weightlifter.
The popular Valentin, 31, is the 2012 champion by default but was not on
the podium in London as she finished fourth. The three who finished ahead
of her recently tested positive in reanalysis of samples.
“It may be a bronze medal but it feels like gold,” said Valentin. “I’m
really really excited that I could stand on the podium after so many years.
I am going out tonight to celebrate with my parents, who are here, and my
“I will keep competing too, and hopefully I will be in Tokyo in four years.
That’s my long-term target, but next for me is the 2017 European
Championships. I’m only 31 and I feel good. My experience gives me a good
foundation, and my motivation is still strong. I’m doing fine.”
Rim won by 16kg with a total of 274kg. She was cheered not just by a large
group of North Korean athletes wearing national team tracksuits, but by a
number of Brazilians who mingled with the North Koreans to sing, dance and
wave a borrowed flag.
Weightlifting is by far the strongest Olympic sport for North Korea and the
team expected to have at least one gold before Rim’s victory. Instead they
suffered a string of defeats. “I was very sad that my comrades did not win
a gold medal,” said Rim, 23.
Did those failures put Rim under pressure, she was asked. “No, I did not
feel any pressure, I just focused on each lift,” she said. “The first thing
I thought when I knew I had won was that I had made our Beloved Leader (Kim
Jong Un) happy.
“Training was very hard and sometimes I was crying when I finished. But I
knew that whenever that happened I was a step closer to the gold medal.”
Silver medallist Naumava said she took up weightlifting fairly late after
she struggled with an increase in weight of the shot put as she grew older.
“I just fell in love with it straight away,” she said.
Rim suffered a bad hip injury at the IWF World Championships in Houston,
Texas last November. She continued to lift against doctors’ advice,
finished second and had to be lifted on to the podium. “I could train again
after about two months,” she said. “We have very good medical and
rehabilitation facilities in our country.”
Rostami’s gold was Iran’s first medal of the Games in any sport. Tian Tao
of China took silver despite making only two of his six lifts, and
Romania’s Gabriel Sincraian, with six out of six, took bronze, edging out
Kazakhstan’s Denis Ulanov. “Six out of six!” said Sincraian. “It must be
the first time I’ve done that for about 10 years. I’m very happy with that.”
Rostami looked supremely confident throughout. When he made his first two
snatches with apparent ease he bowed and gestured to the crowd as if to say
“How good was that?” He missed his third attempt, though, and finished the
snatch only 1kg ahead of his main rival Tian.
Tian, 22, came desperately close to being eliminated. While Rostami cruised
through those first two lifts Tian failed at 173kg, went up by 5kg for his
next attempt and missed that too. On his third snatch, also at 178kg, he
looked beaten. He wobbled on his right knee, then his left, but found the
strength to make the lift.
The crowd loved it and roared their approval. A group of Iranians took the
noise to another level when they performed the ‘Iceland haka’ that made
such an impression at the recent Euro 2016 football.
Tian missed his first two clean and jerks too, which brought back memories
of the IWF World Championships in Houston, Texas last November. He missed
all three attempts then, and having led after the snatch he failed to
register a total.
“I was too confident and didn’t keep calm in the World Championships,” he
said. “Tonight I was over-excited in the first two lifts but I always
thought I would make the third one.
“I offer my congratulations to the winner and hope we have many more
chances to compete against each other. I am confident I can beat him.”
Rostami said, “He (Tian) is very good, he’s younger than me. We can have
some good contests.”
Rostami coaches himself, a point he made several times to the media
afterwards. “The Iranian coaches are good but I want to make my own
decisions,” he said. “Nobody thought it was possible to come to Rio without
a coach but here I am.
“All the time I train alone, just me in a training camp. Nobody sees me. It
can make your mind go a bit crazy. But I will be here again the next time
(in Tokyo) for sure.”
Of the two French lifters the one from the B Group, Giovanni Bardis,
finished 7kg clear of teammate Benjamin Hennequin, who lifted in the A