Om Yun Chol won his third straight world title, broke a world record in the process, then promised to defend his Olympic crown next summer.
The PR Korea flag was raised after Om won the 56kg on body weight from Wu Jingbiao, of China, who also broke a world record. The Chinese flag was hoisted a couple of hours later when 17-year-old Jiang Huihua won the women’s 48kg, the second medal event of the day.
“I am going to win gold every time I compete until I finish my career in weightlifting,” a smiling Om said after giving Wu – “my best friend in weightlifting” – a hug at the post-event press conference. “When my rival runs towards a gold medal, I fly.”
Om had to break his own clean & jerk world record to overtake Wu, who had beaten Halil Mutlu’s 14-year-old snatch world record. In a dramatic finale to a compelling competition Om then went for a clean & jerk of 175kg, which would have taken him past Mutlu’s world record total of 305kg, set in 2000. He cleaned it but failed to complete the lift. Maybe next time…
Kim Tuan Thach, the Vietnamese who lost on bodyweight to Om at the 2014 IWF World Championships in Kazakhstan, was third overall on 287kg, 15kg behind the top two. After two failures in the snatch he was never in contention for gold but at least he had something to look forward to. “I’ve had to eat very small portions for a long time,” he said. “Now I’m going to find a Vietnamese restaurant in Houston and I won’t have to worry about what I eat.”
When Wu, the favourite, was beaten by Om in the Olympic Games in London he said afterwards that had “shamed the motherland”. He did not know it at the time but there was no shame in losing to “Om the Phenom” as he became known.
Wu was determined to gain revenge this year, with the next Olympiad less than 10 months away. All the other nine lifters had finished before Wu made his first snatch attempt at 135kg, only 3kg lower than Mutlu’s long-standing world record. He failed, but made his second attempt. The target for his final attempt then went from 136 to 138 before he opted to go for the record at 139.
Wu made the lift, screamed with delight, pumped his fists and made a sweeping bow to the cheering crowd.
He broke a world record, led Om by 8kg and made his first two clean & jerks, but still it was not enough. Om had to beat his own world record by 1kg to gain the lead and he did it, lifting 171kg. Yet again, he lifted three times his own body weight.
After his narrow failure at 175kg Om ran around the stage with the DPR Korea flag.
Long Qingquan, the Beijing 2008 Olympic champion and another of China’s multiple medal winners, failed to make a lift in the snatch and withdrew from the clean & jerk. Arli Chontey of Kazakhstan won the snatch silver with 132kg and Nestor Colonia of the Philippines (158kg) took clean & jerk bronze.
In the women’s 48kg three of the top four in the world rankings, before competition, were Chinese. The best of them is Jiang, whose 95-113-208 in her national championships this year made her the clear favourite.
In Houston she made “only” 88kg in the snatch but that put her well clear. The two PR Korea lifters, Ryang Chung Hwa and Ri Song Gum, did not do well in the snatch, in which all 12 lifters failed with their third attempts.
Ri won the clean & jerk gold on body weight from Jiang, with 110kg, but it was not enough for a medal on total. Thi Huyen Vuong of Vietnam took silver on 194kg, behind Jiang by 4kg. Bronze was won by Japan’s Hiromi Miyake (193kg), 30, who is aiming for her fourth Olympic Games next year.
“When I was 17 I was competing at 53kg and I was far away from a medal,” said Miyake at the press conference, looking to Jiang on her right. “This was a special performance by the girl sitting next to me.”