It’s been a bit of roller coaster for London 2012 the past few days. There are only three sessions left—one women’s, two men’s—and at this point in the game I’m done suggesting anything that could even remotely resemble a prediction. The Games are too volatile, too subject to the whims of the weightlifting gods, to offer the chance to say anything with confidence. At the start of these Games I sincerely believed the 85-kilo class would be one of the top categories, and in the end it turned out to be a bit of a dud. There was some good, lifting, to be certain, but there was also more than a fair share of poor lifting. Seven lifters bombed out, including three lifters who were in the top of the class with 390+ totals: Iran’s Sourab Moradi, Belarus’s Andrei Rybakou, and China’s Lu Yong.
The totals of the men who did place were solid but nowhere near the possible 400 mark that I secretly hoped might be attained. Poland’s Adrian Zielinski took the gold with a 385 total, edging out Russia’s Apti Aukhadov by virtue of lighter bodyweight. Bronze went to Iran’s Kianoush Rostami, who, even if he did not win gold in weightlifting, should win gold for his athlete photo.
It is hard to overstate the awesomeness of this picture. Eschewing the more traditional aspects of a modern ID photo, such as facing the camera with your body or not sporting a mullet, Rostami has instead opted for a look that suggests he wandered into London from the set of The Lost Boys. Vampires are known for their superhuman strength, so this could explain his prowess in weightlifting…
Mullets and bedroom eyes aside, the session was underwhelming. All the same, it’s good to see Adrian Zieliński, a solid athlete who won the World Championships in 2010, at the top of the medal podium. His 385 total is his best yet on the international stage and at 23 he still has plenty of time and room for improvement. I was fortunate enough to see Zieliński in the 2011 Worlds training hall. As the below video should indicate, he is damn fast (skip to about 30 seconds in if you want to just see Zieliński).
[NB: Zieliński is the first Polish weightlifter to win gold at the Olympics since Zygmunt Smalcerz—current head coach for USAW—won the men’s 56kg class at the 1972 Munich Games.]
The women’s 75-kilo class was a better scene, with a fantastic battle between Russia’s Natalya Zabolotnaya and Kazakhstan’s Svetlana Podobedova. Between them they made 11 out of 12 attempts, resulting in three new Olympics Records: snatch (131, Zabolotnaya), clean and jerk (161, Podobedova), and total (291, Zabolotnaya). Both athletes finished with 291 totals, but Podobedova’s lighter bodyweight gave her the gold. That sort of back and forth, in which athletes fight for every kilo of every lift, makes for the best competition, and not even NBC’s shitty stream on my ancient Android phone connected to Maine’s telegraph internet service could ruin it.
The men’s 94 class was another great show. There was some excellent jockeying for second and third place, which in the end went to Russia’s Alexandr Ivanov (409) and Moldova’s Anatoli Ciricu (407). But the real star of the show was Kazakhstan’s Ilya Ilyin, who made all six attempts and secured himself a new World Record clean and jerk (233) and total (418). Those records are twelve and thirteen years old, respectively (the former belonged to Poland’s Szymon Kolecki, the latter to Greece’s Akakios Kakiasvilis).
As if the gold medal and records were not impressive enough, in turns out Ilyin is also a champion dancer in his native Kazakhstan, as this training video makes abundantly clear (go to around 2:20 for a prime example of what it means to “bust a move”, Kazak style.)
Unfortunately, what I had imagined would be the highlight of these Games—and what I started this series with—seems to have turned into an absolute disaster. From what I have been hearing and reading, Russia’s two 105-kilo lifters, Dmitriy Klokov and Khadzhimurat Akkaev, are both out of the Games, Klokov for undisclosed medical reasons and Akkaev for back problems. I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of bed Monday without Klokov to look forward to. A world without Klokov is not a world I like to imagine. Perhaps I’ll just spend Monday watching footage of the 2011 Worlds and will tell myself it’s the Olympics…