The Olympics are the easy part

BEIJING (AFP) – Winning an Olympic medal is the easy part for Chinese women weightlifters. Getting on the team is the tough task. China holds most of the records in women’s weightlifting, and competition is fierce. Being on the plane to Athens almost certainly means a podium finish. In Sydney four years ago, China won four of the seven gold medals up for grabs in the women’s event. And with China taking home 19 golds at the Weightlifting World Championships last November, no one is betting against a clean sweep in Greece. Being a part of China’s famed «Bar Belles» team, however, isn’t easy. Due to athlete restrictions imposed by the International Olympic Committee, no more than four lifters can enter from any country. China delayed the announcement of its squad for a week because competition has been so intense with a busload of talented young stars vying for a seat. In the end, Li Zhuo (48kg), Chen Yanqing (58kg), Liu Chuanhong (69kg) and Tang Gonghong (over-75kg) made the grade. Wang Mingjuan (48kg), a superstar in China, was not on the official team lists. «We’ve witnessed improvements these years. I’d attribute them to the hard and science-oriented training,» Ma Wenguang, president of the China Weightlifting Association, said. Dubbed China’s «Dream Team,» 19-year-old Liu Chunhong is the spearhead, having shown her class by lifting three 69kg gold medals and beating world records five times at the Vancouver world championships last year. Since bursting on to the scene in the last couple of years, the powerful Liu has smashed more than a dozen world marks, in both the snatch and the clean-and-jerk. And she’s still a teenager. «We told them not to worry about the Games or their rivals. They ought to attempt to lift a bar beyond their own limit,» said Lui Shunzhu, head coach of the Chinese women’s weightlifting squad. While the men have not had the same success, Zhan Xugang will be chasing his third consecutive Olympic gold in the 77kg class. «Hopefully, we can be lucky enough to get four (gold medals). Chinese men are resolved to secure at least one gold and strive for two,» said Ma.

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