PRK overtook China at the top of the medals table at the IWF World Championships in Almaty yesterday afternoon and, after a sensational finish in the men’s 94kg two and a half hours later, they have a good chance of staying there.
In the first medal event of the day 20-year-old Un Hui Ryo won her first world title with a clean sweep of three golds in the women’s 69kg. That took North Korea to 10 golds, one more than China, and she said, “China was the strongest nation in weightlifting before, but not now. That’s in the past!”
Hao Liu then made a brave effort to put China back on top, by virtue of a better silver-bronze record, in the 94kg clean-and-jerk. It was great entertainment and the crowd, with two Kazakh athletes to cheer, loved it, making more noise than we have heard all week.
Liu was out of form in the snatch. He failed with two of his three lifts and was down in 15th place, 23kg behind gold medallist Vladimir Sedov, from Kazakhstan, after making only 165kg. His first attempt the clean-and-jerk was 50kg heavier at 215kg, and he made it.
Liu then failed with his second lift, on 221kg, but made his third attempt. He had moved up nine places and although he had no chance in the overall contest he was suddenly in gold-medal position in the clean-and-jerk with three lifters to finish.
Rinat Kireev from Russia, failed at 224kg. So did the next man, Vadzim Straltsou from Uzbekistan. That left only the home hope Zhassulan Kydyrbayev, who went up 8kg to 229kg in one last attempt to overtake Liu and take the overall victory from his fellow countryman Vladimir Sedov, who had posted a seemingly unbeatable total of 407kg.
Kydyrbayev made it, the crowd went wild, and somewhere back in their team hotel the North Koreans will have been celebrating too. They expect more gold in today’s women’s 75kg (Saturday) and believe they will finish ahead of China in the final table on Sunday. There are four more medal events to come.
Ryo always looked the likely winner of the women’s contest, despite the distraction of the crowd booing her during her lift as she attempted to overtake Kazakhstan’s Zhazira Zhapparkul for victory.
When asked about that afterwards Ryo politely ignored the controversy and replied, “I have won my first World Championships title and I am very happy.”
China’s Youjuan Chen looked very disappointed after failing with three of her six lifts and finishing with a total of 261kg, four kilos worse than Ryo and one behind Zhapparkul.
Another Kazakh, the Olympic 69kg champion Maiya Maneza, was returning at a new weight after taking time off to get married and start a family. In her first competition as a mother she made a total of 231kg, and will expect to improve next year.
Those home fans did have gold medals to cheer in the men’s 94kg. Kydyrbayev and Sedov provided the first 1-2 finish at these championships for any nation. Both lifters are part of Team Astana, whose star man, Ilya Ilyin, is in action in the 105kg tonight (Saturday).
Sedov won the snatch, with Kyrdyrbayev third. In second place was the colourful Aurimas Didzbalis, from Lithuania. The shaven-headed Didzbalis, wearing a lime green uniform, performed a superb backward somersault after his third lift – quite an achievement for somebody who weighs more than 93kg. He led the snatch until Sedov’s last lift and was also in contention overall until Liu and the two Kazakhs took command.