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Jinju, Day 3: Olympic champions beaten as China strike again at Asian Championships

There is no stopping China at the Asian Championships, where for the third time in three days they had a 1-2 finish in an Olympic weight category – and for good measure they won the day’s non-Olympic class too.

To underline their achievements, all six Chinese athletes concerned will now take the top two places in the Paris 2024 rankings in the women’s 49kg, men’s 61kg and, after today’s result, the women’s 59kg.

Two Olympic champions, Kuo Hsing-Chun and Hidilyn Diaz, were back in third and fourth place behind the six-from-six winner Luo Shifang and 18-year-old Pei Xinyi, who set junior world records in clean and jerk and total.

At the first Olympic qualifier, the IWF World Championships in Bogotá, Colombia in December, Luo finished fourth at this weight and Pei won at 64kg.

Chinese Taipei’s Olympic 59kg champion Kuo said at the time that she had expected more from Luo, 22, who missed three of her six attempts in Colombia, and here Luo delivered.

She never looked like missing a lift as she made 105-133-238 and improved her first qualifying total by 8kg.

Pei made 103-133-236, missing her final attempt in both snatch and clean and jerk but taking those junior world records when she made 133kg.

Kuo, who will be 30 in November, had never finished behind a Chinese lifter at this weight since it was introduced at the 2018 IWF World Championships. She failed with her final two attempts and made 2kg less than her World Championships total on 102-128-230.

In fourth place was the Olympic 55kg champion Diaz from the Philippines, who at 58.44kg was competing at her heaviest weight since 2015 and was higher than 58kg for only the second time in a career that began in 2008.

“It’s very hard to change your weight, I have had injuries for six or seven months and I wasn’t even sure I would be able to compete here,” Diaz said afterwards.

“So I am very happy with this performance – I’ve improved since the World Championships and that’s the most important thing. There are plenty more qualifying competitions to come.”

In Colombia, Diaz won at 55kg with a total of 207kg. Here she was less than 4kg heavier and made five from six for 99-122-221, a career-best in the snatch and only the second time she has made a 220-plus total.

“Now I want more, and I’ll work for it,” said Diaz, 32, who became her nation’s first Olympic gold medallist in any sport in Tokyo.

Diaz’s team-mate Elreen Ando was distraught after failing with all three clean and jerks, having also snatched 99kg.

Another Thai teenager showed great promise, after Theerapong Silachai’s junior world records on Saturday.

Thanaporn Saetia, 17, had never competed internationally until March when she won the youth world title at 64kg in Albania. Here she improved on her title-winning total, despite going down from 64kg to 59kg, with 95-114-209 for eighth place.

A large crowd turned up at the Jinju Arena for the men’s 67kg hoping to see a home victory for Sangyeon Lee, and it looked like they had it when he appeared to make his final attempt at 182kg.

But with the bar above his head, Lee’s legs buckled and he dropped it for a second successive no-lift, leaving China’s He Yueji in first place on 147-173-320.

Clean and jerk failures cost Lee dearly when he bombed out at the 2018 IWF World Championships, after which he fell out of favour with the Korean team selectors. 

Lee also had a bad shoulder injury that required surgery and did not return to the platform until last December, when his two good lifts were enough for sixth place at the IWF World Championships in Colombia.

Making all three snatches put Lee in with a great chance because of his prowess in clean and jerk, but it was not to be and he was second on 139-175-314. Adkhamjon Ergashev of Uzbekistan was alone in making all six attempts, which put him third on 138-174-312.

The snatch silver medallist Jeremy Larinnunga from India bombed out in clean and jerk, and Bunyad Rashidov dropped from third in snatch to fifth overall on 140-162-302.

By Brian Oliver, Inside the Games