Charmed gold for Thai Prapawadee

BEIJING Sun Aug 10, 2008 11:18am EDT

1 of 4. P. Jaroenrattanatarakoon of Thailand sets an Olympic record of 126kg in the women's 53kg Group A weightlifting clean & jerk competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 10, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Thailand's Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon won the Olympic weightlifting gold medal in the women's 53kg class on Sunday after a fast and tense competition between several close rivals.

Prapawadee, who changed her name from Chanpim Kantatian last year after a fortune teller told her it would bring her luck, snatched 95kg and lifted 126kg for the clean and jerk, grabbing gold with a total of 221kg.

"A fortune teller told me if I changed my name I would go far, so I changed it because I wanted to go to the Olympics," Prapawadee told reporters after her win.

Beside the name charm, the fact that China had no entrants in the 53kg category also helped. Chinese women have dominated weightlifting, and their absence created space for top contenders from a range of countries.

Yoon Jin-hee from South Korea won the silver and Nastassia Novikava from Belarus the bronze.

"It's a good thing China didn't participate in this category. If it had been in this category, I would have needed to be more careful," Prapawadee said.

The 24-year-old university student set an Olympic record in the clean and jerk on her way to winning the gold.

Prapawadee glowed with happiness as she stepped onto the podium to receive her medal, folding her hands and bowing in a traditional Thai greeting while her fans in the audience enthusiastically sang along to the Thai national anthem.

There were only nine competitors in the women's 53kg category and about half of them lifted almost the same weight, making for a particularly terse competition that alternately left the audience holding its breath in suspense and cheering with relief.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Hamilton)

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)

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