The 2008 Olympic Games: Beijing China
August 9 – 19, 2008
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
CHEN (PRC) 48 kg has injured thigh taped before warmup. Charniga photo
The venue for the weightlifting competition of the 2008 Beijing was the Beijing Aeronautics and Astronomics University. The gymnasium where the competition took place seated approximately 3,000 spectators. There were 15 warm up platforms, overkill to say the least. All in all, the venue was first class; it was probably the best ever for this event.
However, it was the Chinese organizers, the venue staff, the student volunteers who were truly outstanding. Their contribution made the event exceptional, something the big show in a great venue alone would be hard to match. Our hats are off to this fantastic organization and the wonderful people who made it happen at all levels.
Obviously the dominance of the Chinese with eight gold medals was the story of this Olympic Games weightlifting competition. Anyone with even a modest knowledge of athletics would have come to that realization if able to witness the training, the competitions, and even the warm ups; this was the principle difference between the Chinese lifters, especially the women, and the rest of the world. They were extremely well prepared.
The gap between the Chinese and the rest of the world (and there was quite a bit of speculation about this) cannot be explained as simply a home team advantage. Although the Chinese, without question, did benefit some from the home team advantage.
Consider the results of Liu Chunhong and Cao Lei of China compared to the Russians. Chunhong was the Olympic champion of Athens and Cao Lei was world champion in 2006 and 2007.
Table 1. A Comparison of the Results of Chinese and Russian Female Lifters at the World and Olympic Games:
|Lifter/Res||2004 OG||2005 WC||2006 WC||2007 WC||2008 OG|
|Chunhong (PRC)||69 kg||75 kg||69 kg||69 kg||69 kg|
|Slivenko RUS||69 kg||69 kg||69 kg|
• Zabolotnaya of RUS was second with 130 + 155/285 kg.
CAO Lei (PRC) in training. Charniga photo
|Athlete||2006 WC||2007 WC||2008 OG|
|CAO Lei||75 kg||75 kg||75 kg|
|Yevshtukina RUS||75 kg||75 kg||75 kg|
|Difference||– 1 kg||-4 kg||-18 kg|
|Tsarukayeva RUS||58 kg||63 kg||63 kg|
|Shainova RUS||58 kg||58 kg|
From table 1 it is quite obvious that the major reason for the mysteriously large gap between the 69 kg class gold medalist and the silver medalist was the substantial drop in the results of the Russian from the 2007 World Championships in Thailand, i.e. Slivenko –19 kg in total. The picture is essentially the same in table 2; Yestyukhina’s total dropped by 12 kg. Furthermore, Tsarukayeva missed her last warm up snatch with 104 kg and then proceeded to zero with 107 kg, which is 8 kg less than her 115 kg result in Chang Mai; Shainova’s (58 kg) total dropped by 10 kg.
Now one has to wonder, what could have caused the collective Russian nose dive in results?
The appearance of this mysterious gap between the Russians and the Chinese is no mystery in the case of Cao Lei. She made the same total in Beijing as in Thailand: 282 kg (table 2).
However, the gap between her and Yestyukhina, which was only 1 kg in 2006 and 4 kg in 2007, became 18 kg in 2008. The Russians’ questions as to why they lost by such large margins indicates that in their minds something is wrong; apparently, since their weightlifters’ results nose – dived in the 2008 Olympic year, they reasoned so should the results of everyone else.
And, if your results stay the same, as in the case of Cao Lei, then she must have cheated. Does that make sense?
In Slivenko’s (69 kg) case, the gap in the total between her and Chunhong went from a +5 kg in 2007 to a -31kg in 2008. Now it is true Chunhong increased her results from the 2007 worlds by 15 kg, but she easily cleaned 155 there, only to miss the jerk. However, she had reached a result of 285 kg in 2005 (in the 75 kg class), and since she is arguably the Suleymongulu of women’s weightlifting, her outstanding results at home and at the Olympics is not unreasonable.
On the other had, there is a glaring irregularity in Slivenko’s results. She went from a 140 kg C&J in 2006 to 156 in 2007 and then back down to 140 kg in 2008. Maybe the food in Thailand was better than in Beijing.
Konstantinov (RUS) 94 kg Charniga photo
It should be pointed out that with the exception of Akayev, Klokov and Chigeshev, the results of 70% of the Russian team declined at the Olympics compared to results in recent international events.
There was considerable controversy surrounding the non – participation of two lifters: a 105+ lifter from the USA and Gleb Pisarevski (105 kg) from Russia.
The selection protocols arbitrarily altered by the US weightlifting federation in advance of the Olympic team trials caused the 105+ lifter to be pushed down the selection list. He became an alternate behind an 85 and a 77 kg lifter. This controversy, the ensuing mess, was created by US weightlifting, but the blame was unjustifiably shifted to the IWF.
Based on the IWF qualifying system, the USA had three major opportunities to qualify as many as six men and four women: the 2006 and 2007 worlds and the 2008 Pan American championships.
The USA fielded full teams of men and women for the two world events and a full men’s team for the Pan American Championships. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent. Following the two world championships, the USA with a long history of many Olympic and world champions, failed to qualify a single male. Now, who is to shoulder the blame here? It must fall on the officials, coaches, and Board of Directors (all these positions are occupied by one and the same people) who are administering the sport.
The fact of the matter is USA weightlifting had more than sufficient opportunity to place high enough in the qualifying events to earn a six man team for Beijing. They failed.
The case of Gleb Pisarevski and Dmitry Klokov stands in stark contrast to the American fiasco. Dmitry Klokov placed third at the Russian national championships behind Dmitry Lapikov and Gleb Pisarevski in the 105 kg class. They were separated by three kilos: 1. D. Lapikov 200 + 233; 2. G. Pisarevski 200 + 232; 3. D. Klokov 195 + 235. By all rights, the Russian entries for Beijing should have been Lapikov and Pisarevski, but Klokov was moved up and Pisarevski down to alternate.
D. Klokov (RUS) snatches 190 kg Charniga photo.
Not only was the Pisarevski camp outraged, but other lifters such as the 85 kg V. Polovnikov wanted to know why he wasn’t selected even though he put up some big numbers, 177 kg snatch and 212 kg clean and jerk, in the selection camp.
So, in the case of the Russians, who had actually earned six slots and had realistic medal contenders, the argument was about who would be the best choice to earn a gold medal.
Whereas, the Americans who did not earn even three slots despite blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on international trips, wanted the third, unearned slot, so that they would have the opportunity for a lifter to possibly crack the top ten. Then, the USA officials tried to shift the blame for their dismal failure to produce a competitive team to the IWF for not getting a third slot.
All in all, the selection of Klokov was correct. He made six for six and won the silver medal. Lapikov’s total nose dived 13 kg from his result at the nationals. Pisarevsk, although a great lifter, has a history of missing attempts because time ran out on the platform. He failed to appear in time at the 2003 worlds and 2007 European championships and lost attempts. That simply would not have worked in Beijing.
As it turns out, the lack of a third male lifter on the USA team was justifiable and correct. There were sufficient opportunities to earn as many as six slots and they failed. Had there been only the two world championships as the qualifying events, the USA would have qualified no men which would have been a national disgrace.
The Training at the Olympics
The main training hall next to the competition venue had 50 platforms; almost all were busy in the last few days leading up to the 08/09/08 start of the competition. In some cases, it was obvious as to who was going to do well in the upcoming competitions and who was not.
For instance, the Chinese women were obviously in top form, training twice daily close to their competition days and lifting substantial weights in the competition exercises. Jang Miran (KOR) the eventual gold medalist of the 75+ kg class did 135 + 175 kg in training a few days before her competition.
Rybakau (BLR) 85 kg snatches 180 kg and back squatting 240 kg “closely supervised by coaches 10 meters to the rear. Charniga Photos
Belarus lifters Rybakou (85) and Aranmau (105 kg) put up big some weights a number of times. Rybakou snatched 180 kg on two separate occasions, snatched 170/2 x 3 on two other occasions and clean and jerked 195 kg; he did a back squat 240 x 3 x 3. Aramnou (105) snatched 170/2 x 3 and did 220/2 + 1 in the clean and jerk. Lu Yong (85) did 175 + 210 and 240 kg front squat. All four Chinese female entries also put up respectable “competition practice” weights.
Lu Yong (PRC) doing pulls in the training hall. Charniga photos
Needless to say, most of the athletes who trained with weights close to their competition attempts in the days leading up to their competitions did well.
Is this the secret? Charniga photo
On the other hand, most of the Russians seemed to be training primarily with relatively light weights, and as a group they did not do very well. One of the notable exceptions, however, was D. Klokov (105) who for the most part did very light, almost bodybuilding movements, yet put up the big numbers when it counted.
Chen (CHN) front squatting 125 kg in training. Charniga photo
The Warm – ups
One of the fortunate experiences of these championships was the opportunity to witness the warm up attempts of the Chinese women. Presented in table 3 are the warm ups of Liu Chunhong and the snatch warm – ups of Tsarukayeva (RUS). As you can see, Liu did approximately twice the warm – up sets and substantially more lifts than Tsarukayeva. Indeed, essentially, she did a workout in both exercises before entering the platform and making six good lifts.
Table 3. Warmup and competition attempts for Liu Chunhong 69 kg (68.88) and Tsarukayeva (RUS):
Snatch weight % C&J Weight % Sn Weight %
1st 15 1st 15 1st 15
2nd 15 2nd 15 2nd 15
3rd 35/3 3rd 45/1+3 3rd 15
4th 45/3 4th 45/1+3 4th 40/3
5th 45/3 5th 65/1+2 15th 50/3
6th 65/3 6th 65/1+2 6th 50/3
7th 65/2 7th 85/1+2 7th 70/2 67%
8th 75/2 60% 8th 95/1+2 60% 8th 70/2 67%
9th 75/2 60% 9th 105/1+1 66% 9th 80/2 77%
10th 85/2 66% 10th 105/1+1 66% 10th 90/1 87%
11th 85/2 66% 11th 115/1+1 73% 11th 95/1 91%
12th 95/2 74% 12th 115/1+1 73% 12th 100/1 96%
13th 95/2 74% 13th 125/1+1 79% 13th 104 —
14th 100/2 78% 14th 125/1+1 79%
15th 105/2 82% 15th 130/1+1 82%
16th 105/2 82% 16th 130/1+1 82%
17th 110/2 86% 17th 135/1+1 85%
18th 110/2 86% 18th 140/1+1 89%
19th 115/2 90% 19th 140/1+1 89%
20th 115/1 90% 20th 145/1+1 92%
21st 120/1 94%
22nd 120/1 94%
23rd 120/1 94%
1st 120 94% 1st 145 92% 1st 107
2nd 125 98% 2nd 149 94% 2nd 107
3rd 128 100% 3rd 158 100% 3rd 107
This warm – up requires an enormous work capacity, specific to the snatch and the clean and jerk exercises, to complete without becoming fatigued or disrupting coordination.
On the other hand, Tsarukayeva did an everyday standard warm – up most males would perform in competition and, unfortunately, was unable to make any platform attempts. However, lifting one’s opening attempt in the warm up room three times (as Liu did with 120 kg snatch) seems overkill to say the least, but you can not argue with the results: six good lifts and new world records.
Sour grapes and the excuses race
In some respects an unfortunate circumstance at these championships was the attitudes of some of the athletes who were unsatisfied with their results. Some rather silly excuses after the fact, or even worse, came with ready made pre competition excuses.
In the case of the former, the top excuse by far was one of the responses of the Russian 69 kg lifter as to why her results dropped, creating in the 31 kg gap between her and the Chinese winner. Among other reasons, she mentioned that when they arrived in Beijing, they noticed the competition platform had already been used, presumably by the host Chinese lifters.
In point of fact, the platform had been used back in January for the Good Luck Beijing test event. However, to even verbalize such a silly presumption that the Chinese had some advantage because they got to use the competition platform first is ludicrous.
On the other hand the American team of officials came in well prepared with ready made excuses for failure. It has always been the pathetic propaganda of USA weightlifting that the rest of the world cheats otherwise their lifters would be champions. It is a “We play by the rules and they don’t” explanation.
This is a ridiculous assumption. No proof is offered as to how all of “We” play by the rules and the ones who beat us do not. You simply have to take their word for it. The ultimate irony surrounding this buffoonery is that the USA had originally qualified three men at the 2007 worlds in Thailand but lost all three slots when the results were altered as a result of the testing there.
This very same testing was meant to assure a level playing field which the US official propaganda says is not level and the “others” who beat them are not tested.
However, “the used platform” excuse gives the Russians yet another edge; they even beat the USA in the most pathetic excuses category.