‘Suspicious’ move to drop teenager as China try to make most of Russian weightlifting ban
48kg lifter Hou Zhihui is sent home so over-75kg’s Meng Suping can compete in the absence of the Russian favourite
She fulfilled a life-long dream to compete in the Olympics, or so she thought. Days after landing in Rio for her 48kg event, a tearful weightlifter Hou Zhihui, 19, said goodbye to Rio after she was replaced by over-75kg lifter Meng Suping.
Coaches admit that the IOC decision to ban Russian weightlifters played a part because Meng would now be a favourite in that division. They also claim Hou was injured, but some Chinese media are crying foul, saying the move was highly suspicious.
Wang Guoxin, the head coach of the women’s team said on Monday that Hou had not recovered from a knee injury sustained during a Beijing training session.
“Our team has decided to compete in the women’s over-75kg division instead of 48kg division, and Meng Suping is the best choice,” Wang said.
World championship silver medallist Meng was to arrive in Rio on Friday and favoured for the gold because rival and world record holder Tatiana Kashirina is part of the Russian squad banned by the sport’s governing body.
Watch: Hou Zhihui at the junior world championships
Each country can only field four weightlifters in each of the men’s and women’s competitions. For Meng to take part, someone else had to leave and the axe fell on Hou.
“Yes, Kashirina’s absence did give us a big opportunity to win in this division because only Meng and Kashirina has the ability to lift over 300kg in total in the world,” said Wang.
The eight Russian weightlifters were not among the 271 athletes allowed to compete in the Games by the IOC.
Some Chinese media, though, were sceptical about the decision to remove Hou, saying the move was “suspicious” given she was allowed to come to Rio.
“We’re not angry that she was dropped,” said one Chinese journalist. “But she had come all the way here and it is suspicious.”
China have topped the weightlifting medal table at every Olympic Games since Sydney 2000.
There are 15 gold medals are on offer in the Rio 2016 weightlifting tournament at Riocentro 2, which begins with the women’s 48kg on Saturday .
The competition concludes on Tuesday with the titans of the sport going head-to-head in the men’s +105, where world champion Lasha Talakhadze, of Georgia, London 2012 gold medallist Behdad Salimikordasiabi (iran) and world championship bronze medallist Gor Minasyan (Armenia) headline the 21-strong field.