By Brian Oliver at the George R Brown Convention Center, Houston, Texas
Rim Jong Sim defied medical advice to compete in the clean & jerk, collapsed three times, still had a clean sweep of second places, and then had to be helped on to the podium by her fellow medallists in a dramatic women’s 75kg.
The PR Korea athlete – who will drop back down to 69kg to defend her Olympic title next summer – injured herself while attempting her third snatch, which she failed. She was helped off stage by medical staff and the IWF duty doctor advised her team to withdraw her.
Rim, 22, had a bad and very painful left hip injury, which meant she was unable to rotate her hips. She also stretched a muscle and had a knee complaint, but despite medical advice she continued.
“According to the IWF TCRR, the Doctor in Duty can give a medical opinion and advice, but cannot stop an athlete continuing through their own will.The advice of the Doctor on Duty was not to compete, as it would have been from every other doctor on site. But the PRK team representative said Rim wanted to make her country proud, wanted to win as she had promised, and said it was her own decision to continue.
After undergoing 15 minutes of spraying and strapping treatment, Rim made a few tentative lifts in the warm-up room. She was cheered by the large crowd when she came out for her first clean & jerk attempt at 150kg, made the lift and collapsed.
Rim hobbled off stage and came back for more. She did it again – the lift and the collapse – at 155kg, after which she was given a standing ovation. The crowd were on their feet again when she made another, failed attempt at 157kg, and fell back in distress.
After the medal ceremony, for which she was helped on to the podium by gold medallist Kang Yue, of China, and the Russian bronze winner Olga Zubova, Rim was helped backstage and taken to hospital on a stretcher.
“It was an honour to compete against her. She is a hero,” said Zubova, who took clean & jerk gold ahead of Rim and Kang. The Chinese winner also praised Rim for her “spirit and sportsmanship” and Jenny Arthur, the American who finished eighth said, “That took a huge amount of courage.”
Kang made only two good lifts, a 127kg snatch and a 155kg clean & jerk, to finish 2kg ahead of Rim.
Last year’s champion, Nadezhda Evstiukhina, of Russia, made only three lifts for a disappointing total of 261kg. Lydia Valentin, of Spain, had to withdraw because of back and neck injuries.
The 2014 men’s 105kg champion Ilya Ilyin, from Kazakhstan, sat out these championships but still heard the Kazakh anthem while watching on television. His teammate Alexandr Zaichikov was the clear winner in a contest that featured only 13 good lifts from the field of 11 in the clean & jerk.
The snatch gold medallist, Ivan Efremov, could finish only eighth overall and his Uzbekistan teammate, Sandorbek Dusmurotov, won a clean & jerk bronze from the B Group. The 18-year-old Armenian, Simon Martirosyan, was third in the snatch and fifth overall.
Russia’s David Bedzhanian moved from ninth in the snatch to second overall by winning the clean & jerk with 231kg. He went up 11kg for his final lift, a bold attempt at 242kg, equal to Ilyin’s world record. He cleaned it but not could not complete the lift.
“It was too much – like a circus exercise,” said Bedzhanian afterwards. “I’ve never lifted that weight in training.” Nor had Zaichikov, 23, who declared this “one of the greatest competitions I have been in”. He said his best in training was 240kg, but he weighed 111kg at the time.
The only man to make all three clean & jerks, the Latvian Arturs Plesnieks, took bronze on total.