August 15, 2008 / 1:26 PM / 10 years ago

Olympics-Weightlifting-Rivals ponder secret of Chinese success

BEIJING, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Novel training methods, unprecedented scientific insight, or simply hard work and a talent pool of 1.3 billion people?

Weightlifting experts from around the world are striving to uncover the secret behind the success of China, which was expected to win one-third of the 15 Olympic weightlifting gold medals on offer but has already beaten that target.

Chinese coaches and athletes say there is no secret — just a tough training routine and the determination to win.

“Weightlifting depends on strength and so we women weightlifters have fully understood the importance of strength and pick up gold medals,” said Olympic champion Cao Lei.

Cao brought home China’s seventh Olympic weightlifting gold of the Games in the 75kg class on Friday. Hours later, in the men’s 85kg contest, Lu Yong won the eighth.

China’s female lifters have been especially impressive, not only because they have won every competition they entered but also because of their style. Cao and her compatriot Chen Xiexia appeared to lift the barbell with astonishing ease and assurance that contrasted with their groaning, straining challengers.

At the Olympics, Chen lifted 13kg more, Cao 16kg more, and gold medallist Liu Chunhong, 31kg more than their closest rival — this in a sport where there is often just a single kilogram between gold and silver.

Some speculate that China has unlocked a new technique which allows women in particular to achieve unprecedented results.

Andrew Charniga, an international weightlifting federation official, has watched the Chinese women train and suspects the secret could be in a long warm-up. While a long warm-up can exhaust men, it possibly has the opposite effect on women, allowing them to take on higher and higher loads.

“It’s a training method that is unique. They think women can do more loading than a man,” he told Reuters, adding that he had observed a similar effect in non-Chinese female weightlifters who can load more the longer they warm up.

Whether his theory holds remains to be seen. Chinese lifters have been tight-lipped on their training routine. Tamas Ajan, the president of the federation, puts their success down to the country’s sports schools.

“Thousands and thousands of young boys and girls practise every day, it’s the right nutrition, the right medical treatment, the right training — this is not a wonder, this is the sport,” he told reporters. “Twenty-first century sport is different.” (Editing by Alex Richardson)

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