China’s Meng Suping bows in thanks after repaying last-minute call-up with weightlifting gold
Chinese weightlifter Meng Suping dropped to her knees and bowed to a packed stadium after clinching her first-ever Olympics gold in Rio, winning a round of applause that shook the Riocentro stadium.
It was a move perhaps no one would have expected from the muscular woman who had just hoisted a combined weight of 307kg in the women’s +75kg division, beating heavyweights Kim Kuk Kyang of North Korea by 1kg and the Sarah Robles of the USA by 21kg.
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“I think this is my duty for my country and my party and once I received this duty I pursued it,” the 27-year-old said afterwards.
The gold medal carries not just the 307kg she lifted but the expectation of everyone who has made Meng a modern-day superwoman.
It was also a medal that Meng would not have imagined two weeks ago – a knee injury to the 48kg favourite Hou Zhihui prompted the decision to call for Meng,
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Hou thought she had recovered sufficiently in a pre-Games training camp in Sao Paulo but China’s head women’s coach, Wang Guoxin, made the change.
His decision was influenced, he said, by the absence of Tatiana Kashirina of Russia, the world record holder who beat Meng in the past two IWF World Championships. Kashirina was excluded when the entire Russian team was banned from Rio for state-sponsored doping.
Meng was therefore believed to have better chance of winning gold in the +75kg division than Hou in the 48kg category.
“I think every single Olympic athlete dreams of winning a gold medal,” Meng said. “Since the beginning I had a lot of people supporting me and it was a very difficult journey. I am happy that I persisted and I thank all the coaches and all the people who supported me along the way.
“I would like to thank our country’s leaders and also my country for giving me this very important mission and I know no matter what, there is a lot of weight on this and it represents the entire country.”
Meng got into weightlifting at the age of 14 and just one year after she had started training, she competed in a youth competition in Anhui province and came in fourth.
The younger Meng was upset that she had failed to turn her efforts in training into victory. Little did she realised that 12 years later, she would stand atop an Olympic podium in Rio.
“This competition for me was a very personal challenge. I came on the stage a little bit nervous, but I was able to stabilise and go forward with my weights,” she said.
“Honestly, before the competition I didn't really think about how much weight I planned to lift, I was just following my coach's directions and treating every lift as a lift by itself – and I think the end result was pretty good.”