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Two down, one to go for record-chasing Iran

By Brian Oliver at Riocentro, Rio de Janeiro

The men’s 94kg featured a vegan who finished 11th, a man wearing a hat for
perhaps the first time in Olympic weightlifting, and a flying somersault
from a Lithuanian bronze medallist.

The glory, though, went to Iran, who won their second gold medal in two
days. Sohrab Moradi finished well clear of his rivals and now his big hope
is that favourite Behdad Salimikordabiasi retains his super-heavyweight
title on Tuesday. If he does Iran will have three weightlifting golds at a
single Games for the first time.

When Kianoush Rostami broke a world record in winning the 85kg on Friday he
predicted more glory to come for Iran. It arrived in the very next event.

Moradi won by 8kg, and with two lifts to spare, from Vladzim Sraltsou of
Belarus and Aurimas Didzbalis of Lithuania. Moradi, 27, had two attempts at
a world-record clean and jerk of 234kg after his victory was assured, but
never came close with either of them because, he said, he felt a strain in
his right thigh.

His total of 403kg was 15kg more than Moradi had lifted before a two-year
doping ban in 2013. “During those two years I was on my own at home
training very, very hard,” he said.

“People laughed at me, they said ‘You’re retired, you’re banned’ but I had
a goal and I worked hard for it.” Moradi tested positive for methadone and
said it must have been administered to him as a painkiller without his

Didzbalis, who has also served a two-year ban, might have mounted a
stronger challenge but for missing his first two snatch attempts. He also
failed with his final clean and jerk, but he followed it with a flying
somersault anyway, as he was assured of a place on the podium.

Asked if he had been a gymnast in his youth he said,”No. But I know how to
do the somersault for sure, I have had plenty of practice. I only do them
when I win a medal. If I had finished fourth you wouldn’t have seen it.”

There were two Iranians in the eight-man field and plenty of their
countrymen to support them in a crowd of more than 5,000. Hasem Ali, 24,
made only two good lifts for a total of 383kg and seventh place.

The original entry list was shorn of three lifters because of doping. Two
Polish brothers, Adrian and Tomasz Zielinski, were sent home after samples
taken before the Games came up positive. The Georgian Rauli Tsirekidze was
excluded after testing positive in the reanalysis of samples from the 2008
and 2012 Olympics.

Kendrick Farris, who finished 11th for the United States, was competing at
the Olympic Games for the third time, and for the first time as a vegan.

Farris, 30, made the switch two years ago after the birth of his second
son. Despite the high protein levels needed to compete in the sport he has
improved his performance and said, “I feel lighter, more focused.

“My wife laughed when I told her I was switching to a vegan diet but I am a
very determined person. I wanted to return to the purest form of life
because of my Israelite ancestors and that started with the food.

“Other athletes will come and ask me about it. If you pay attention to what
you put into your body you will have a clearer mind and a better quality of

“Sure, I loved burgers before but I love them still, made from mushrooms or
beans. Bro, it actually tastes better. You take protein from all sorts of
food and I take plenty. I can go couple of days now without eating and as
long as I stay hydrated I’ll be fine.

“I will eat though, because tomorrow I will be training again. I feel good,
and having been to three Olympics I hope there will be a fourth.”

Farris’ coach Kyle Pierce, a professor of kinesiology and health science at
Louisiana State, in Farris’ home town of Shreveport, said, “His becoming a
vegan didn’t concern me in terms of his performance.

“He knows about mixing beans and rice and so on, about amino acids. His
best total was two months ago so it clearly hasn’t had an adverse effect.”

Farris, who holds four United States national records and won the
PanAmerican Games gold last year at 94kg, made only two good lifts in
totalling 357kg.

“It went OK,” he said. “I could have had a better performance but it’s very
tough to even make a total.” His point was borne out by the fact that at
one point in the clean and jerk, there were 10 misses in 12 attempts by
various lifters.

“So many missed lifts – maybe somebody turned up the gravity!” he said.

There was a huge crowd for the session even though it was a B Group.
Farris said, “The atmosphere was amazing, electrifying, they gave so much
energy I just wanted to give the proper energy back.

“Before the competition started I thought something was wrong, that people
must be running from the building. Bu it was just the noise, the stands

There was another rarity in the B Group when Britain’s Sonny Webster
competed in a hat. “How about that, I might not have made a great total but
I must be the first Olympic weightlifter to wear a snapback,” said Webster,
22, who finished 14th.

He had to wear it backwards because if the bar had touched the peak it
would have been a no-lift.

Webster made 333kg and said, “The noise was amazing, the whole building was
shaking. The last 11 years of my sporting life flashed by out there when I
made my total. It was the most amazing day of my life.”