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China lifts its weight in Olympic gold rush (2)
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17:31, August 13, 2008


Chen Yanqing of China takes a lift during women's weightlifting 58kg Group A competition of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics Gymnasium in Beijing, China, Aug. 11, 2008. Chen Yanqing claimed the title with a total result of 244kg in the event.(Xinhua/Wu Wei)

For Chen Yanqing, defending her Olympic title was hard won after announcing her retirement three times in the past eight years.

She first made her name in 1997 by claiming the clean and jerk and total golds in the world championships and ruled the category by continuously smashing world records.

Despite ranking number one in the 58 kg class, Chen missed the 2000 Sydney Olympics as China did not enter in that class due to an overestimation of her major rival, Ri Song Hui from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Dismayed, Chen announced her retirement in 2001, after scoring only a bronze at the National Games in Guangzhou that year.

"Back in 2000, I was only 21. I was at the best age of an athlete. I didn't know what I should be up to next after missing out the Sydney Games. I chose to go to college."

But Chen came out of retirement just two years later, to prepare for the 10th National Games held in her native Jiangsu Province. She scored another bronze, and qualified for the national weightlifting team for the Sydney Olympics.

In 2004, Suzhou-native Chen finally pocketed her first Olympic gold and defeated rival Ri by 5 kg in Athens.

With her Olympic dream fulfilled, Chen again announced retirement in 2004, but returned for the 2005 National Games where she broke three world records.

Her third retirement lasted less than a month. Chen qualified for the Olympics after winning another national championship in her third comeback in April after her coach Cao Xinmin's repeated pleas.

"I want to thank my coach Cao for accompanying me for 18 years," she said, "Without him, I would never have made such achievements."

"If the Athens gold belongs to me, this one belongs to all the people supporting me," she said after claiming her second Olympic gold.

Zhang Xiangxiang of China takes a lift during men's weightlifting 62kg Group A competition of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics Gymnasium in Beijing, China, Aug. 11, 2008. Zhang won the gold medal in the event. (Xinhua/Yang Lei)

Like Chen Yanqing, Zhang Xiangxiang, champion of men's 62 kg class weightlifting of the Beijing Games, is just another Chinese medalist who succeeded through years of hard work and perseverance.

The 25-year-old won a bronze medal during the Sydney Olympics eight years ago. The ambitious young man aimed for gold at the 2004 Athens Games but was struck down by a medical mistreatment a year previously.

"In 2003, I strained my waist during practice and received an anesthesia shot in my waist to ease the pain. But the nurse accidentally stuck the needle to my spinal cord. I was almost paralyzed.

"One month after recovery, I couldn't even lift 20 kg," he said, "It was very difficult for me, and for the people who had been supporting me."

Zhang resumed training in 2004, and regained his confidence when he claimed the national championship last year. The victory helped him qualify for the Olympics as another star lifter, Qiu Le, the two-time world champion, got injured at the 2007 world championships.

Bagging the gold medal in the men's 62 kg class on Monday, Zhang kneeled down four times to thank the home fans who had roared their support to him when he tried to break the world record in his third clean and jerk attempt.

Zhang was still very happy despite the failed attempt at the world record. He crouched on the platform and kissed the barbells.

"I am lucky to be standing here today. I have waited for this moment for eight years. The key thing is persistence and never backing down," Zhang said. "As long as you have life, you can create everything."

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1 China 17 3 5 25
2 USA 10 8 10 28
3 South Korea 5 6 1 12
5 Italy 4 4 2 10
4 Australia 4 2 6 12
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