News and Media


Phuket, Day 2: World records and a sensational finish as Olympic champion Hou ousts China team-mate to claim place in Paris

Hou Zhuhui earned the chance to win Olympic gold for China for a second time when she bettered her own world record in a sensational performance at the IWF World Cup.

There was drama from start to finish in two sessions of the women’s 49kg. DPR Korea’s Ri Song Gum also claimed a world record on the way to victory ahead of Hou, but she is not eligible for Paris 2024 because her nation entered the qualifying programme too late.

Ri Song Gum (PRK)

All that mattered for Tokyo champion Hou was finishing ahead of team-mate Jiang Huihua, who went to the top of the rankings at the first qualifier in Colombia 16 months ago and stayed there until the last few minutes of the afternoon A Group in Phuket.

Hou Zhuhui (CHN)

Four times Jiang had beaten Hou in a Paris qualifier. This time Jiang missed three of her attempts, including the last two, and Hou made a swing of 6kg to overtake her.

Jiang made 94-114-208, which was 8kg down on her best effort. Even if she had made her final clean and jerk of 123kg Jiang would not have overtaken Hou. That would have put both lifters on 217kg, leaving Hou top of the rankings because she got there first.

Hou made a career-best 97-120-217, which was 7kg more than her winning total in Tokyo. Ri won on 97-124-221, bettering her own world record on total with her fifth attempt and failing on 126kg as she went for the clean and jerk record too.

Jiang Huihua (CHN)

China was one of seven nations with athletes going head-to-head in Phuket, the final Olympic qualifying opportunity. No country can send more than one athlete in any weight category, so team-mates were up against each other in the race to be ranked in the top 10.

There were tears of heartbreak and of joy on the platform, in the warm-up room and even in the audience. The happiest athletes were Hou, the Tokyo silver medallist Mirabai Chanu from India, Surodchana Khambao from Thailand, Rira Suzuki from Japan, Katherin Echandia from Venezuela, Fang Wan Ling from Chinese Taipei, triple Olympian Beatriz Piron from Dominican Republic, and Rosina Randafiarison from Madagascar. They all qualified.

Rira Suzuki (JPN)

Those whose hopes were dashed included Jiang, Thanyathon Sukcharoen from Thailand, who had to withdraw when she injured her elbow on her final snatch attempt, Dahiana Ortiz from Dominican Republic, Ana Lopez from Mexico, Lin Cheng Jing from Chinese Taipei and Giulia Imperio from Italy, who bombed out for a third time in qualifying.

Rosegie Ramos from the Philippines is one place outside the top 10 but may yet make it to Paris if Nina Sterckx from Belgium, ranked at two weights, performs well at 59kg here on Wednesday.

The continental place – awarded to the highest-ranked athlete from any continent not represented in the top 10 – will go to Randafiarison, who edged ahead of Dika Toua from Papua New Guinea by 1kg. Toua’s hopes of lifting at the Olympic Games for a record-breaking sixth time now rest with the Tripartite Commission, which will choose six weightlifters from 32 applicants for a Universality Place. Toua is one of them.

Echandia and her coaching team provided the best celebration of the day. The Venezuelan screamed with joy when she made it into the top 10 with her fifth attempt,  but when when Fang edged past her she had to do it again. Echandia made it, finishing with a six-from-six 85-108-193, before leaping into the arms of one coach while being mobbed by others.

Katherin Echandia (VEN)

Piron has been suffering with a shoulder injury and sat out the competition after weighing in. Ortiz failed with two attempts to move above Piron. “I intended to compete here but I have to take care of myself. I have had the injury for four months,” Piron said.

“Now I will be fine for Paris. It was tense to sit and watch my team-mate and I feel really happy and proud to qualify for the Olympics for a fourth time.”

Chanu was happier than she has been for a long time despite making her lowest total since 2015 in the B Group. She made five from six for 81-103-184, down 16kg on her best qualifying total. She opened on 75kg, her lowest in 10 years.

“I’m feeling great after what happened at the Asian Games,” Chanu said. “It has been very difficult to recover from that. Now I’m looking forward to going to Paris and making more.”

Chanu was carried off the platform in agony last September after collapsing while making her final attempt at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

“It has taken her six months to recover, four and half months of it resting with only very light workouts,” said India’s head coach Vijay Sharma. “There was some confusion over what happened. One diagnosis was hip tendonitis, another was just overwork on the hip.

“Mira didn’t go back to her home after the Asian Games, she went to the national camp and did whatever she could without forcing her hip.

“She had already qualified so there was no point stretching her here. We want her to peak at the right time, and we know she can do much better now. Her best total on the stage is 205. We will come back on the same total and try to improve it a little bit.”

Tokyo Olympian Lopez was in good shape after four attempts, 1kg below her best qualifying total. She failed with her last two and did not make the top 10.

The Australian Brenna Kean found the task of chasing the continental place beyond her after losing 22.75% of her body weight since she lifted at 64kg in November. Kean, who had never competed lighter than 59kg before, bombed out in the snatch.

The cut-off point at 10th place was on 190kg before today. Despite all the efforts of 32 athletes in this category in Phuket it moved by only 1kg to 191kg by the finish.

Jourdan Delacruz from the United States and Mihaela Cambei from Romania, both assured of a place in Paris, did not compete today. Both are entered at 55kg.

Men’s 55kg podium

PRK also won the non-Olympic men’s 55kg. Pang Un Chol failed with his fifth lift then made the last one for 118-152-270 to edge ahead of Natthawat Chomchuen from Thailand. Chomchuen, who made a great save on his final attempt, finished 119-150-269 and Lai Gia Thanh from Vietnam was third on 120-148-268.

By Brian Oliver

Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia