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Olympic weightlifting champion Liao Hui: fewer worries, more gains
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10:49, August 13, 2008

Talking about competing side-by-side with Shi Zhiyong in men's 69kg category at the Beijing Games, Liao Hui said he had no advantage over his teammate, and just worried less than Shi did.

"I will play my part to secure him (to get the gold)," Liao said before the Games, adding that as a rookie, he would just take the opportunity to make himself more experienced.

But the worry-free 20-year-old successfully overcame pressure, lived up to home fans' expectation and won the Olympic title.

Born in Xiantao City, a renowned "home of gymnasts," of central China's Hubei Province, Liao dreamed to be a gymnast when he was seven years old, but was shut out of the sport by the local coaches.

The boy changed his mind when weightlifting coach Gan Yongkui set an eye on him the next year. This time, he was stopped by his parents, who worried that their son might grow up a "dwarf" as a weightlifter. The coach didn't give up. Three years later, he visited Liao's family again and said the boy would have a promising future.

"I promised them that Liao would be picked up by the provincial team within three years, and enter the national team in another three years," Gan said, adding that Liao is a talented lifter, which was also the People's Liberation Army (PLA) weightlifting team coach Yu Jie's first impression on Liao.

"He has good physical conditions, and he is smart, knowing how to adjust himself in the competition," Yu said.

They are right. The boy made progress rapidly in the three consecutive junior national championships he took part in from 2004:

2004, only 12th place;

2005, a gold;

and 2006, a gold again.

He was inducted into the national team after finishing 4th place in the national championships last May. Also in 2007, Liao won five golds at home and abroad.

In 2008, he edged out veteran Zhang Guozheng, Athens gold medalist and world champion, who had dominated the class for nearly five years, to get qualified for the Beijing Olympics.

It has only taken nine years since he chose, or rather to say was chosen by the career of weightlifting.

He said he had benefited a lot from the days taking training sessions together with Zhang Guozheng.

"Strong opponent makes me stronger," he said.

He was sent to the ongoing Games with Shi Zhiyong, who upgraded to this category after claiming a title in the 58kg class at the Athens Games, to form a "double insurance" for the gold.

However, Tuesday's game turned out to be much tougher than everyone had imagined, as both of them failed the first attempt in snatch and Shi had to quit the clean and jerk competition due to a waist injury.

Then Liao made his first jerk attempt, and failed. South Korean Lee Baeyoung, who was injured in his first jerk attempt, and French lifter Tigran Gevorg Martirosyan were waiting to challenge a heavier weight.

But Liao succeeded in the second try for 185kg.

"I knew I didn't adjust myself well, so I did that before the second attempt," Liao said, adding that it's actually not a big deal for him as he could jerk 200kg during the training sessions.

He finished with 190kg, totaling 348kg, beating French Vencelas Dabaya-Tientcheu by 10kg, as the latter failed in his two attempts for a world record-equaling 197kg.

It's the fifth gold claimed by Chinese lifters in Beijing.

The newly-crowned said he wants to go back to his hometown and share the joy with his parents.

To his parents' delight, their son has grown to 168cm, not a dwarf at all.


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