India could have had a perfect start to the Commonwealth Games on Monday but instead had to be content with two silver and an equal number of bronze in weightlifting.
Nkem Augustina Nwaokolo of Nigeria, participating in her first international competition, grabbed gold in the 48kg category ahead of India's Soniya Chanu and Sandhya Rani Devi, who had to be content with silver and bronze respectively.
On her way to glory, Nwaokolo, a high school student, set three Games records. She broke the snatch record in the second attempt and improved it by moving from 76kg to 77kg.
The Nigerian also set a new clean and jerk record of 98kg for a total of 175kg, which was 8kg more than Chanu's.
All the previous records were held by India's Kunjarani Devi.
An elated Nwaokolo credited her coach, Patrick Bassey, for her performance. “I had the confidence to win as my coach trained me well.” On her next target, Nwaokolo wants to finish on the podium in the Olympics.
Bassey said consistent practice was the reason for Nwaokolo's success. “She is just 17 and it is her will to improve that has fetched her the gold medal, and it is the first time that a Nigerian girl has won gold at the Games.”
Chanu, who in her second clean and jerk attempt had no option but to lift more than 100kg for gold, failed in the last two attempts to lift 103kg.
“I am disappointed, my coach and everybody had huge expectations from me. It was just not my day today,” said Chanu.
Sandhya Rani grabbed the third spot by virtue of being the lighter competitor as compared to Malaysia's Zaura Zakaria. Both had lifted 165kg.
In the men's 56kg, it was Malaysia's Amirul Ibrahim Hamizan who took the top honours as he became the most successful athlete from his country by winning four Games medals.
He finished with a total of 257kg which was 5kg more than India's Sukhen Dey, who came second, followed by teammate VS Rao with a total of 248kg.
“It was a present to my chef-de-mission as it was his birthday today,” said Amirul.
Dey, who made an attempt to lift 146kg in his last clean and jerk attempt, failed to surpass the Malaysian but looked satisfied with his performance.
“I have improved a lot from the past and hope to continue doing so during the Asian Games next month,” he said.
India coach, Harnam Singh, rated the day as a mixed one. “We could have done better as we had the chance of winning gold in both competitions, but considering the things we have faced in the past, I am happy with our performance,” he said.