Special report: 2008 Olympic Games
By Sportswriter Qi Zijian
BEIJING, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Chinese weightlifters, who scooped five gold medals apiece in Sydney and Athens, are gearing up for a better show in Beijing Games.
The Olympic host is expected to dispatch at most 10 strongmen and women in August, who will compete for the gold chances in five men's classes and four women's.
"We are in the final phase of selecting the Olympic competitors," said Ma Wenguang, director of China's Weightlifting, Wrestling and Judo Administrative Center. "The strength of our lifters has us weigh a lot over the candidates and their opportunities."
The first gold of Beijing Olympics weightlifting would be produced in women's 48 kilograms class.
Chen Xiexia, a strongwoman from southeast China's Guangdong province, sees herself a favorite for the 48kg title, the one unexpectedly lost in Athens 2004.
In other women's classes, 58, 63, 69, and 75kg, lifters are striving for the three remaining quotas. Strong candidates are Athens gold medallists Chen Yanqing in 58kg and Liu Chunhong in 69kg, and last year's world champions Liu Haixia in 63kg and Cao Lei in 75.
Chinese strongmen, who took one gold in Sydney and two in Athens, are facing tougher rivals in Beijing 2008.
Divisions they chose to compete will be the same as Athens, said Ma Wenguang. Five weightlifters will be concentrating on the 56, 62, 69, 77, and 85kg categories, one of which features two Chinese strongmen aiming at a "double-lock guarantee."
They reaped best national performances in recent years in all but one of those divisions at the National Championships last April. Veteran Olympic gold medallist Zhang Guozheng did a better-than-world-record job in clean and jerk in 69kg in a practice.
In men's 77 and 85kg, Li Hongli and Lu Yong will be the Chinese team's first choices. But their prospects for the Olympic gold are up to their performance in severe rivalries with European strongmen.
Both candidates Li Zheng, a world champion, and Long Qingquan in the 56kg category recently saw a better chance after Turkish Olympic champion Halail Mutlu announced his withdrawal from the Beijing Games.
Mutlu, the three-time Olympic champion who will turn 35 before the Games begin, had said he was unable to lift his targeted weights in practice and it would be difficult for him to take part in the competition. Mutlu's aim of becoming the first weightlifter to win four Olympic gold medals has ended.
In men's 62kg class, Zhang Xiangxiang, who scored a great success at the national championships, and Zhang Jie, who set a new world record in total at the Asian Championships in Japan this year, are the candidates for the Beijing Games.