BEIJING: Chinese weightlifter Chen Yanqing recovered from serious depression, in which she repeatedly tried to quit, to defend her 58kg crown and retain China’s domination of the sport at the Beijing Olympics.
Zhang Xiangxiang maintained the momentum to win the men’s 62kg division, giving China its fourth weightlifting gold here.
The 29-year-old Chen set two Olympic records as she produced a best clean and jerk of 138 kg on her way to a Games record total of 244kg.
The reluctant star then revealed the personal hell she has suffered in the four years since her Athens success.
Through months of despair she tried to quit only to be talked out of retirement by Chinese officials.
After retiring following her Athens triumph she came back two years later to set five world records at the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar.
“In the past, I have said three times that I’m going to retire, without knowing what would happen. I never thought that in 2008 I would win a gold medal,” said Chen.
“I went through a very low period in my life. I am still embarrassed to discuss it. There was a period of five months when I stopped doing any training. “As you grow older you are not as strong as you used to be … I was under tremendous pressure.”
But government officials and sports administrators “cheered me up and gave me all possible support”, which caused her to change her mind and with a perfect outcome.
“The first Olympic gold was for myself. Today, I dedicate this gold medal for my country,” said Chen who holds the world records in the snatch (111kg) and total (251kg).
But she said she never considered trying to better compatriot Qiu Hongmei’s clean and jerk record of 141kg.
“My most important commitment was to win this gold medal,” she said.
As for the future, Chen was not prepared to commit herself either way.
“It’s difficult to say what will happen in the future, because so many things can change. I don’t think I want to share my plans for the future now.”
Russian Marina Shainova won the women’s 58kg silver while O Jong Ae of North Korea took the the bronze with her clean and jerk of 131kg also bettering the old Games record.
In the men’s division, Zhang improved on his 2000 Sydney Olympics bronze by winning the men’s 62kg class with a combined lift of 319kg.
He failed to beat two world records when missing a final 184kg clean and jerk effort, which would have pushed up his total to an all-time high of 327kg.
Colombian Diego Salazar won the men’s 62kg silver took silver behind Zhang while Indonesian Triyatno settled for the bronze.
Chen Xiexia’s won the women’s 48kg gold on Saturday followed by teenager Long Qingquan a day later in the 56kg division, and China has six lifters still in contention in the remaining 10 divisions.
Thailand’s Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon in the women’s 53kg has been the only non-Chinese winner so far.
Channel News Asia