The Chinese weightlifting team’s defence of their stunning eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008 got off to a slow start four years later in London, with Kazakhstan and South Korea challenging their domination of the sport.
However, 28-year-old Lu Xiaojun provided one early highpoint for the weightlifting superpower in the men’s 77kg category.
Having already been assured of gold, he claimed a world-record total of 379kg when he lifted an impressive 204kg in the clean and jerk after an initial 195kg lift.
Lu marked his achievement, one of 44 world and Olympic weightlifting records broken at the ExCel arena during the Games, by abandoning protocol to lift his coach off the ground – leaving him covered in chalky handprints – before running around the stage in ecstatic celebration.
It was an unusual display of exuberance in the competition but one that reflected both his incredible feat and the importance of the sport in his country – which had missed out on taking gold in the 77kg in its home Games.
The battle for gold and silver got off to a thrilling start as he and countryman Lu Haojie exchanged 170kg attempts before Haojie failed at 175kg, leaving Xiaojun to win in emphatic style.
Xiaojun, who began his athletics career as a sprinter before moving into lifting at the age of 18, then lifted a 204kg clean and jerk, again eclipsing his own previous world best, smashing Taner Sagir’s Olympic record by more than a kilogram.
Overall he beat his nearest rival by a full 19kg to beat the record he set in the world championships three years previously.
Haojie suffered an injury to his left arm with his failed attempt at the world snatch record on 175kg but showed courage to manage a 190kg clean-and-jerk to tie up the silver medal.
Xiaojun’s total could have been even higher had it not been for a tactical hiccup that meant he was unable to make it to the platform in time to try for a 177 kg snatch.
After Haojie pulled out of his final snatch attempt, the clock was reset to one minute in accordance with the rules and left Lu Xiaojun short of time.
“I think it was a question of a misunderstanding, because of poor communication we didn't know it was such a short time,” Lu Xiaojun told reporters.
After the contest, which saw China regain some of its weightlifting swagger, the pair embraced on the podium and toasted each other’s achievements.
Haojie said: “China lost the gold medal to South Korea in this division in 2008 Olympics. We are here for revenge and we want both the gold and the silver.
“Although I stretched my arms, I will do my utmost to win the silver. As long as [a]Chinese athlete wins the gold, it’s okay.”
And Xiaojun said: “If people think that is a big weight to lift, it is part of our training.
“We repeat with weights of 180, 200, 205 and 210kg then go the other way with 210, 205kg and so on. We repeat that every day. It is part of our method and technique.”