North Korea’s Om Yun-chol won Olympic gold after matching the world record in the clean and jerk, upstaging Chinese world champion Wu Jingbiao, who entered the tournament as the strong favorite, but left with silver.
Om’s stunning 168kg clean and jerk gave him an unassailable early lead in the under-56kg weight class after he made the unusual decision to participate in the morning’s Group B session, which is usually filled with athletes not expected to challenge for medals.
Om said it was a tactic designed to make the lifters in the evening session nervous.
“I think my plan worked 100 percent,” Om told reporters, breaking into a wide smile.
The North Korean looked on from the stands, more than eight hours after he finished competing, as China’s Wu attempted a final lift of 161kg that would have given him gold, but failed to lock his arms while holding the bar above his head.
That left Wu 4kg short of Om’s combined 293kg total across the two styles of Olympic lift — the one-phase snatch and the two-stage clean and jerk.
Wu managed to hide his disappointment when he spoke to reporters after leaving the arena, but briefly broke into tears while seated alongside Om in a press conference when a reporter listed his previous achievements.
After regaining his composure, Wu said: “I am prepared that there might be a dark horse coming out, but I didn’t expect it would be from Group B.”
Eighteen-year old Valentin Hristov of Azerbaijan won the bronze with a performance inspired by knowing his country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, was watching from the stands.
“When he’s in the audience, it gives me more adrenaline and it gives me more strength,” Hristov said.
For China, the failure to secure a second weightlifting gold of the Games added to the earlier disappointment of 17-year-old medal prospect Zhou Jun’s chaotic exit from the women’s under-53kg competition, where she fail to complete a single lift.
Nevertheless, the strong Chinese contingent in the 6,000-seat Excel Centre cheered loudly for Wu as he took to the podium.
“The first placed athlete was amazing, but our guy Wu Jingbiao is amazing too. We’re still proud of him,” Xin Xiaoqi, a 25-year-old Chinese student studying in London, said as she left the stadium.
China were dominant in the weightlifting event at the Beijing Olympic Games, winning eight gold medals, but they failed to build on the perfect start of lifter Wang Mingjuan, who won the women’s under-48kg gold on Saturday.