11
Aug 08

His snatch was his downfall

FT + TMFDPost a comment • 147 views

Thanks to the miracle of the BBC streaming video I have now seen some live weightlifting – the mens’ 62kg finals. I can report that I was – as someone in the comments mentioned – quite wrong about the lack of tactics: but the tactics are as brutal and all-or-nothing as the sport in general. Do you try and lift at the limit of your ability to post a total that might get you in the medals, and risk crashing out entirely? Or do you lift what you can, get a total on the board and seek to build on it (but risk exhausting yourself?).

It’s a tough choice, tougher when you have a dude like gold medalist Zhang Xiangxiang in your event, performing first-time lifts which better anyone else’s best with ease. He failed his second lift on the snatch, but that was the only hiccup until he missed a world record lift right at the end – by then he had won gold easily and was doing it more to please the home crowd.

I liked the guy who got silver, a surprisingly rangy Colombian called Salazar (though this lower weight class doesn’t really attract man-mountains) who was the most delighted when he managed each lift, and I felt bad for a Korean who’d taken an early lead before three fails in the clean-and-jerk ended his Games. That’s the starkness of weightlifting: unlike the swimmers, runners, cyclists, etc. there’s no multiple events to promise redemption, and unlike the boxing and tennis you don’t work your way through multiple bouts. In the lifting, you really do only get one moment in the spotlight.

These lower weight classes have, as predicted, been a goldfest for China. Eyebrows have apparently been raised over the initial gold in the lightest women’s class, whose bulky winner managed an improvement in a year equal to over half her bodyweight. But what impressed me about Zhang Xiangxiang was his calm as much as his formidable strength. Oh, and his name, pronounced by the BBC commentator with all three syllables the same, like a weightlifting version of !!!

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