BEIJING (Reuters) - Chen Yanqing won another Olympics weightlifting gold for China on Monday, defending her title in the 58kg class with the toughness of a woman who has risen from desperate poverty to the top league in her sport.
Chen, who came out of retirement for the fourth time to represent her country at the Games, is the first woman to win two Olympic gold medals in weightlifting.
She snatched 106kg and lifted 138kg for the clean and jerk, winning with a total of 244kg. Chen said after the competition she wanted to retire, then added she could not talk with any certainty about her future plans, given her past comebacks.
“I thought my career as athlete was over, I never thought I would be at another Olympics and win another medal,” she told reporters after her victory.
“But I had support from many people and they’ve been pushing me, so that’s the secret of my vitality.”
Chen, the daughter of poor peasants who had actually hoped for a son to help them on the farm, also won gold in Athens. Her father used to row her from the small island where they lived across a lake to get to training, hoping she would become a PE teacher and ease some of the family’s financial burden.
Marina Shainova from Russia won the silver and O Jong Ae from North Korea the bronze.
The North Korean made her last-ditch lunge at the medal just before the end of the competition, spectacularly raising her weight from 125kg to 131kg.
She failed to lift the much higher weight at the first attempt, provoking gasps from the audience, then prompting huge cheers when she succeeded with her second try.
But she looked close to tears after the competition. She tried to walk away without attending the winners’ news conference, was held back by Olympic volunteers, and eventually sat down on the floor, fingering her bouquet.
“It was underperformance on my part, so I’m sad and disappointed,” she later told reporters, after the volunteers persuaded her to take part in the news conference. “I wanted to bring joy to the North Korean people, however I failed to do so, and I’m very sorry.”
After her Athens gold, Chen said she was exhausted and fed up of looking “like a dumpling” after bulking up in the gym.
The 29-year-old, who lists driving and reading as her hobbies, said at the time did not want to compete any more, but was persuaded to make a comeback in Beijing.
Additional reporting by Ken Wills; Editing by Alison Williams