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A late replacement in the Chinese four-women team for 48kg lifter Hou Zhihui, who failed to recover from a pre-Games injury, the 27-year-old Meng took the women’s +75kg title ahead of Kim Kuk Hyang of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Sarah Robles of the USA. Kim’s silver was her country’s first medal in weightlifting’s highest weight class.
Meng’s path to gold was far from smooth, however, with failed lifts in her first snatch and clean and jerk attempts meaning she had to produce something special at the end of each discipline. By the time the Chinese lifter stepped up for her final clean and jerk attempt, Kim had thrown down the gauntlet with a clean sheet of six out of six lifts to post a total of 306kg.
Yet having arrived late in Rio, Meng appropriately pulled off some last-minute heroics, lifting 177kg to pip the Korean to the gold medal by a single kilogram. In doing so, she helped China to match its London 2012 haul of five gold and two silver weightlifting medals, with Yang Zhe still to compete in the men’s 105kg on 15 August.
“I think every single Olympic athlete dreams of winning a gold medal,” said the triumphant Meng. “Since the beginning I’ve had a lot of people supporting me and it was a very difficult journey. I am happy that I persisted and I thank all the coaches and all the people who supported me along the way.”
In taking the bronze, Robles had to fight hard to fend off Egypt’s Shaimaa Haridy. But when the Egyptian failed with her final attempt at 169kg, Robles was able to celebrate the USA’s first Olympic weightlifting medal since Sydney 2000.
Recalling the 160kg clean and jerk lift that gave her a coveted place on the podium, the relieved American lifter said: “My coach said it’s eight seconds for the rest of your life and I thought eight seconds isn’t much. My main thought was pulling on the bar, getting under it and the rest would take care of itself.”