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The Colombian saw off fierce competition from Indonesia’s Eko Yuli Irawan and Farkhad Kharki of Kazakhstan, who won silver and bronze respectively.
Figueroa lifted 142kg in the snatch and 176kg in the clean and jerk for a 318kg total, and edged Irawan by six kilos after the Indonesian failed with a 179kg attempt in the clean and jerk. With gold assured, the Colombian sank to the floor in tears, eventually taking his shoes off and placing them on the stage as a sign that he would now retire.
“It's 22 years since I started and now is the time to retire, which is why I removed my shoes,” he said. “But I am full of emotion. It's as though I was lifting for the whole country, and those tears were for all of Colombia. So maybe I will think about participating in Tokyo in 2020.”
A father of two, Figueroa said he had now experienced starkly contrasting emotions on the Olympic stage. Fifth at Athens 2004, he was in good form and confident of a medal in Beijing 2008, only to suffer a hand injury two weeks before the Games and fail with all three snatch attempts in the Chinese capital.
“I was so low in Beijing, and I am so high here,” said the elated Colombian lifter. “This is the best thing I could have ever expected, for my country and for my family. I am just very happy. It was very, very hard. The four years following my silver medal in London 2012 were filled with a lot of preparation and effort, but it all ended with big results.”
Meanwhile, silver medallist Irawan said that his achievement would give a boost to weightlifting in Indonesia: “Even though I am disappointed, I’m still proud of this medal. We are moving forward as a country with this medal.”
In the women’s 58kg category, there was a one two for Thailand, as Sukanya Srisurat and Pimsiri Sirikaew won gold and silver respectively. Srisurat set an Olympic record in the snatch with 110kg, before managing 130kg in the clean and jerk for a combined total of 240kg. In edging Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Hsing-Chun into the bronze medal position by just a single point, Sirikaew won her second consecutive silver in the event.
“I’m very happy. I never thought I could do it,” said the 21-year-old Srisurat. “This is my first time at the Olympics, so I’m very happy to win a gold medal and bring it back to Thailand. I practised very, very hard. It took a lot of persistence and perseverance to be able to stand here.”
Srisurat’s victory continues an impressive run for Thailand’s women weightlifters in Rio, following Sopita Tanasan's victory in the 48kg two days earlier. All three of the country’s lifters who have competed so far have finished on the podium.