Taking a 118-kilogram weight to the back of the head? Even that couldn’t stop China’s Xiang Yanmei from winning Olympic gold.
Xiang was already the favorite for gold in the women’s 69kg weightlifting class when she dropped the bar on her third attempt in the snatch, and it delivered a glancing blow to her head on the way down. That prompted fears weightlifting superpower China could see another surprise withdrawal in the middle of the competition after it lost world record holder Chen Lijun to a cramp in Monday’s men’s 62kg class.
Xiang briefly appeared dazed and admitted to some pain but was fully alert as she closed out China’s fourth weightlifting gold of the Rio Olympics with 116kg in the snatch and 145 in the clean and jerk for a total of 261.
“I got hurt a little bit and I feel hurt when I nod my head,” she said. “I didn’t think about it when lifting weights.”
Xiang said she had not seen a doctor.
She added Olympic gold to the world titles she won in 2013 and 2015, and continued a resurgence for China’s lifters in Rio following a slow start.
The silver medal went to Kazakhstan’s Zhazira Zhapparkul with a 259 total, while Egypt’s Sara Ahmed won bronze with 255 kilos, becoming the first woman from an Arab country to win an Olympic weightlifting medal. The 18-year-old is also Egypt’s first female medalist in its 104-year history at the Olympics.
Egypt could also receive a silver medal from the women’s 75kg class in the 2012 London Olympics, in which Abeer Abdelrahman finished fifth behind three lifters currently under investigation after failing retests of their samples.
Zhapparkul had faced possible exclusion from the Olympics after the International Weightlifting Federation proposed to bar the entire Kazakh team for numerous doping failures in retests of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee did not close those cases in time for Rio, delaying the sanction.
Zhapparkul said the uncertainty hadn’t affected her preparation.
“I didn’t really feel anything, to be honest,” she said. “I just worked and trained.”
Still, the fact that Zhapparkul was allowed to compete along with two weightlifters from Belarus, which was under a similar threat of sanctions, drew the ire of Canada’s ninth-place finisher Marie-Eve Beauchemin-Nardeau.
“I don’t think they should have been competing,” Beauchemin-Nardeau, who put her career as a doctor on hold to train for Rio, told The Associated Press. “It’s kind of stupid that they’re going to be banned after the Olympics, because they’re not going to be missing any competitions, so it’s a ban that doesn’t mean anything.”