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China top the table again and USA end long wait for medal

By Brian Oliver at Riocentreo, Rio de Janeiro

The United States won their first weightlifting medal in 16 years when
Sarah Robles finished third in the final women’s event of Rio 2015, the

In that same time span China have won 38 medals, 28 of them gold. They have
finished top of the weightlifting medals table five times in a row.

Meng Suping confirmed their superiority again at Rio 2016 when she won
China’s fifth gold of the Games ahead of Kim Kuk Hyang of North Korea, and
Robles. No other team can catch them.

The bronze probably meant as much to the Americans as Meng’s gold did to
China. “Obviously we’re very very pleased with that,” said Phil Andrews,
chief executive of USA Weightlifting.

“At the beginning of the 2012-2016 period we were looking to get two in the
top eight in Rio. We had a team of four here and they finished 111th,
sixth, sixth and third.

“We’re in a very good period for growth, especially in women’s
weightlifting, and this will help. At the time of the last Olympic Games we
had 11,000 members, now we have 26,000, and 36% of them are women.”

At 143kg Robles was 20kg or more heavier than her rivals and she turned
that to her advantage to become the first American on the podium since Tara
Nott won at Sydney 2000. Robles totalled 286kg, behind Meng by 21kg.

Robles, 28, said, “This means a lot, to be on the podium and give exposure
to our sport at a time when it’s already growing.

“It’s good not just for me, but for women of size, for women who want to
get up off the couch and do something different.

“Women’s weightlifting is definitely becoming more popular, not just in the
United States but internationally. It’s good to show women they can be in a
strength sport.”

Both Robles and Kim have served two-year doping bans. Robles said her
positive test was a result of unknowingly taking an over-the-counter
supplement that contained a banned substance. Life was hard for Robles at
the time. She lost her funding, took three or four menial jobs, kept
training and strove to return.

“I know I’m a good and honest person and if I put hard work in I would be
able to reach my goals,” she said.

Meng had to make her last clean and jerk of 177kg to edge out Kim, who
lifted more than 300kg for the first time. Meng did it and justified her
late selection for the Rio team.

Meng, 27, was drafted in just before the Games and did not arrive in Rio
until the day after the opening ceremony. She occasionally looked shaky,
missing her first snatch and her first clean and jerk, but did enough.

“I was at home in China training hard when I heard I had been selected,”
she said. “It was a personal challenge for me and I know there was a lot of
weight on me, but it was my duty to perform well for my country and I did

“I was a bit nervous on my first lift but I stabilised. I didn’t think
about how much I had to lift, I just followed my coach’s directions and the
end result was pretty good.”

Meng’s gold takes China’s tally to 28 in the five Games this century. They
have never won fewer than five in a single Games since women’s contests
were added to the schedule in 2000.

Their tally in Rio is five golds and two silvers with one lifter yet to
compete, Zhe Yang in the men’s 105kg on Monday.

A knee injury to the 48kg favourite Hou Zhihui prompted the decision to
call for Meng. Hou thought she had recovered sufficiently in a pre-Games
training camp in Sao Paulo but China’s head coach of the women’s team, Wang
Guoxin, made the change.

His decision was influenced, he said, by the absence of Tatiana Kashirina
of Russia, the world record holder.

Kashirina had beaten Meng in the past two IWF World Championships but she
was excluded when the entire Russian team was banned from Rio for “bringing
the sport into disrepute” through state-sponsored doping. The ban was not
confirmed until the week before the Games started.

Kashirina’s world record total of 348kg is way beyond the winning total in
Rio. “It’s a pity she was not here,” said Meng. “She is a very strong

Kim was in tears at the finish. “I was happy to win silver but sad it was
not gold,” she said.

Venezuela’s Isabel Espinosa made six out of six in the B Group to total
273kg and finish seventh, ahead of three lifters in the A Group.