A former circus performer won a gold medal, the home crowd cheered as a Kazakh lifter came from nowhere to take a silver, and China’s Wei Deng made a sensational recovery from a poor start in an exciting women’s 63kg at the IWF World Championships.
The former circus performer was Romela Begaj, from Albania. Her father was a gymnast who passed on his skills when Begaj was very young. She performed around the world in gymnastics, trampolining and other dynamic feats of skill. And at the age of eight she took up weightlifting.
Begaj, coached by her husband, the former boxer Gazmend Haksan, in Tirana, had won a snatch bronze in the 2011 IWF World Championships in Paris. Here she denied Kazakhstan a gold by lifting 113kg in the snatch, edging ahead of Karina Goricheva by having the lighter bodyweight.
Winning silver was still a remarkable performance by Goricheva, 21, whose opening lift of 103kg was lower than seven of her rivals. She moved up to 108, then 113, when the crowd had to be asked to keep the noise down by the announcer.
“They helped me with their support, but I had to try to calm them down for the lifts,” said Goricheva, who tried archery, fencing and karate before taking up weightlifting. “It’s tougher competing on home territory, because you don’t want to let anybody down.”
Begaj, 28, became the first Albanian woman to win a world championship gold medal in any Olympic sport – only a day after Daniel Godelli had been the first man to do it when he won the men’s 77kg yesterday.
Albania’s football team are doing well in the qualifying programme for Euro 2016 but, said a beaming Begaj, “Everybody is talking about weightlifting back in Albania – it’s the number one sport right now. It’s live on television and in all the newspapers.”
Begaj is far better at the snatch then the clean-and-jerk, and fell away to seventh place overall. Last year’s champion Tima Turieva, from Russia, looked certain to win the overall gold when she went clear with a lift of 140kg but Deng responded with 142kg and it was enough for clean-and-jerk and overall glory. Turieva failed with her attempt at 142. She was disappointed, but said, “I can do more. I will be patient.”
It was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Deng. She failed with her first two snatch lifts on 110kg and had looked beaten. “I was very nervous before that third lift, and very happy when I made it,” she said. “After that I just relaxed.”
Deng had finished second in the Asian Games six weeks ago, behind Tzu-Chi Lin, from Taipei. Last night Lin made only two good lifts and finished with a disappointing 246kg total, 6kg behind Deng and Turieva.
By Brian Oliver