On Wednesday, the men’s 77kg weight class took to the platform. Lyu Xiaojun (CHN) was the favorite heading into the competition along with Andranik Karapetyan (ARM). Mohamed Mahmoud (EGY) and Chatuphum Chinnawong (THA) were also expected to compete for a medal.
The snatch portion of the competition panned out as many expected. Lyu set a new Olympic and World Record with a 177kg snatch. This followed Karapetyan’s missed 176kg snatch attempt. Karapetyan settled for 174kg from his 2nd attempt.
After the snatch, Lyu and Karapetyan held a significant lead over Nijat Rahimov’s (KAZ) 165kg snatch sitting in 3rd place. As the rest of the field worked their way up in weight, Karapetyan was the first of the top 3 to attempt a clean and jerk. Karapetyan missed his first attempt at 195kg and followed up with a second attempt. However, on his second attempt, he missed his jerk behind his head and hyperextended his elbow. The serious injury left Karapetyan in agony as he was helped by medical staff off the platform.
With Karapetyan’s withdrawal from competition Lyu appeared to take a conservative approach to the clean and jerks starting at 197kg. At the 2015 IWF World Championships, Lyu missed all three clean and jerk attempts at 201kg. On Wednesday, Lyu missed his opening attempt at 197kg, but came back on his second attempt with a successful lift.
Rahimov successfully hit his first clean and jerk attempt at 202kg. With both Lyu and Rahimov with a total, Lyu held a 7kg advantage over Rahimov heading into Lyu’s final attempt. Lyu matched Rahimov’s 202kg lift, making this third and final clean and jerk attempt.
In a surprise to everyone, Rahimov put 214kg onto the bar for his second attempt. The attempt would be for the gold medal and an Olympic and World Record clean and jerk. Rahimov cleaned the weight easily and then jerked it overhead. The lift propelled Rahimov to victory tying Lyu’s 379kg total, but winning the tiebreaker based on bodyweight.
Rahimov’s record-breaking lift and gold medal didn’t come without controversy. Rahimov tested positive for oxandrolone and dehydromethyltestosterone during an out-of-competition drug test in 2013 while he was competing for Azerbaijan. Rahimov served a two-year ban and has only returned to competition in June 2015.
Rahimov won the 2015 IWF World Championships with a 165-207-372kg total in November 2015. Following the 7kg improvement over his performance less than a year ago, bronze medalist Mahmoud said, “Maybe after some doing controls, some things will change.” Mahmoud added that improvements like that “in a very short time it cannot happen like that.”
Weightlifting has been surrounding by doping controversy over the past several months as numerous athletes have been caught doping, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Ilya Ilyin (KAZ). The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) banned Russia from the Olympics following the McLaren Report detailing systemic doping programs.
Additionally, this week, Lin Tzu-Chi (THA) withdrew from competition following “abnormalities in a drug test”, and the Polish weightlifting federation’s head resigned following two more failed drug tests from Polish weightlifters.