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Jinju, Day 2: Records, bombouts and another China 1-2 at Asian Championships

Li Fabin won the head-to-head between two Chinese Olympic champions, a Thai teenager claimed two more junior world records and four athletes bombed out in the first 20 minutes of a remarkable session on day two of the Asian Championships here in Jinju.

The result of the second event here at an Olympic Games weight was the same as the first one on Friday – China first, China second and Thailand third.

But the men’s 61kg was far more dramatic than the women’s 49kg because it featured a gripping contest between Li and his team-mate Chen Lijun, a superb performance by Theerapong Silachai – a name to remember – and 13 no-lifts in the first 15 attempts.

Li, the Olympic champion at this weight, failed only with his final attempt. By then he already had the better of Chen, the 67kg winner in Tokyo who had to lose nearly 10 per cent of his body weight to drop down to this new Paris 2024 category.

Chen, 29, was still trying to shed more grams this week before weighing in at 60.92kg, his lowest weight since he began his career by winning a junior world title in 2010.

Li made 143-171-314 while Chen missed his last two attempts in making 142-168-310, a phenomenal effort after the punishing weight loss.

Chen will have five months to prepare for a rematch as China will skip the next Olympic qualifier, the IWF Grand Prix in Cuba in June, and focus on the IWF World Championships in Saudi Arabia in September.

It was a fourth Asian title for Li, 30, whose first came way back in 2012. His consistency is evident in the numbers: his past four totals have been within a range of 3kg.

If age catches up with either Li or Chen, Silachai looks sure to take advantage.

The 19-year old was the only man in the field to make all six lifts, a point he made by standing aside and pointing down to the barbell with both hands after completing his final attempts in snatch and clean and jerk.

Why did he do that?

“I wanted to make the point that this is easy,” he joked afterwards.

Silachai took junior world records in clean and jerk by 4kg and total by 3kg as he made 132-167-299.

He also has two junior world records at 55kg, made when he won on his international debut four months ago at the IWF World Championships in Bogotá, Colombia.

Silachai comes from the same area as Pawina Thongsuk, a winner at Athens 2004, and has been in weightlifting for nine years after starting out in football.

“My dream when I was very young was to play for the national team as a footballer,” he said. “But now my dream is to win an Olympic gold medal.

“I am so happy with this – I will go back to the hotel and watch my world records on playback,” he said after surpassing his expectations in snatch, clean and jerk and total. He said he had been training hard for this competition for one and a half years.

The slew of red lights at the start meant four of the nine athletes were out of the contest very early, and Silachai’s team-mate Teerapat Chomchuen joined them by withdrawing.

By comparison the four lifters who survived the snatch had only one missed attempt between them.

Ricko Saputra from Indonesia, who took bronze in snatch, missed only his final clean and jerk and made a career-best 133-165-298. 

The four who failed were Shin Rok from Korea – who failed to make a total in Bogotá too – Seyitjan Mirzayev from Turkmenistan, who also missed all three clean and jerks, Commonwealth Games winner Muhamad Aznil from Malaysia, and Trinh Van Vinh, the third Vietnamese athlete to bomb out in two days here.

There was another highly impressive performance by a teenager when Chen Guan Ling from Chinese Taipei won the women’s 55kg in style.

Chen, 18, made five from six to finish well clear on 90-114-204 in only her second competition, having finished ninth on 190kg at the same weight in Colombia in December.

Bindyarani Sorokhaibam from India was out of the medals in the snatch but moved up to second place on 83-111-194, with Vo Thi Quynh third for Vietnam on 88-104-192. Uzbekistan’s Jamila Panfilova was third in snatch and clean and jerk but fourth on total.

Another China 1-2 is possible on Sunday in the women’s 59kg but this time the field includes two Olympic champions from elsewhere, Kuo Hsing-Chun from Chinese Taipei and Hidilyn Diaz from the Philippines, as well as Diaz’s team-mate Elreen Ando.

A big crowd is expected at the Jinju Arena because the non-Olympic men’s 67kg category features home favourite Sangyeon Lee.

By Brian Oliver, Inside the Games