Tokyo, Japan: China’s Hou Zhihui took the first weightlifting gold of Tokyo 2020 on Saturday as she dashed India’s hopes of an elusive first women’s Olympic title.
The 24-year-old world championship silver medallist Hou dominated the 49kg competition, opening up a 7kg advantage over India’s Chanu Saikhom Mirabai after the opening three lifts.
Hou’s 94kg third attempt was below her own snatch world record but it gave her a healthy cushion over Mirabai, who could only manage 87kg, failing with her final attempt at 89kg.
Mirabai, the 2017 world champion at 48kg, is the world record holder in the clean and jerk at 119kg but could only manage 115kg and finished 8kg behind Hou’s aggregate of 210kg.
Mirabai did become the second athlete from India to claim an Olympic weightlifting medal, after Karanam Malleswari’s bronze in the women’s 69kg at Sydney 2000.
But she could not become the second athlete — and first female — from the country to win individual Olympic gold, following Abhinav Bindra’s win in the 10m air rifle at Beijing 2008.
Teenager Windy Cantika Aisah took the bronze for Indonesia after smashing her personal best twice in the clean and jerk.
The 19-year-old from Bandung hoisted 110kg with her third attempt and screamed with delight as she secured a medal.
Hou’s victory could herald a gold rush for China in weightlifting, especially with arch-rivals North Korea absent.
China have sent a full quota of four men and four women to Tokyo, and all are capable of finishing on the top step of the podium.
Earlier in Group B of the 49kg competition, Papua New Guinea’s Loa Dika Toua made history as the first female to compete in five Olympic weightlifting competitions, just a few hours after carrying her nation’s flag at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony.
It was a remarkable achievement by the 37-year-old, coming 21 years after she became the first female ever to lift at an Olympic Games when women’s weightlifting was first introduced in Sydney in 2000.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” she told AFP after finishing fourth in Group B of the 49kg bodyweight division, with a total of 167kg.
“Your dream is to go to one Olympics, and maybe a second one. But I never imagined in a million years that I would make it to five.”
Her five-Games feat was later matched by double Olympic medallist Hiromi Miyake, who won a silver medal in London in 2012 and bronze in Rio five years ago.
The Japanese lifter, 35, was competing for the final time in her home Games before retiring but went out in sad fashion after three no-lifts at 99kg in the clean and jerk.
“To be honest, I did not expect to make it five times,” she said. “It is a proud achievement.”