INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) – China are expected to dominate weightlifting at the Asian Games starting Saturday, but it is an Iranian great who is out to confirm his legend as the world’s strongest man.
Among the behemoths of the sport, the reigning Olympic, Asian and former world superheavyweight (+105kg) champion is Salimi Behdad, who was picked to carry Iran’s flag at the opening ceremony on Friday.
“It’s for the first time I’ve been chosen as the Iran’s flag-bearer and I am so happy,” he told the Tehran Times.
“Undoubtedly, it’s on a par with winning an Olympics gold medal for me.”
Behdad broke the snatch world record by hoisting 214kg at the world championships in Paris in 2011, where he took gold with a Herculean aggregate of 464kg – just 8kg shy of the long-standing combined world record.
He was not selected by Iran to defend his world title last year in Poland after a dispute with his coach.
But that was all forgotten as the Iranian squad departed Tehran and the explosive powerhouse vowed to raise the bar by breaking his own world snatch mark in Incheon.
“I intend to hold over my head the record weight,” he was quoted as saying at the airport.
Weightlifting, which begins on Saturday, will be a main attraction over the first seven days of the Asiad as medals are up for grabs in 15 weight categories – seven for women and eight for men.
Each athlete can make three attempts in two disciplines, the snatch and the clean and jerk, with the highest aggregate weight winning.
China dominated at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, winning eight golds, two silvers and a bronze.
Two Chinese gold medallists from 2010 are back to defend their titles – Wu Jingbiao (men’s 56kg) and Yang Zhe (men’s 105kg).
In the men’s 62kg, Chen Lijun is just 21 years old but already has pocketed a world championships gold which he won on his senior international debut last year.
Kazakhstan were the next-best nation four years ago, carrying off three golds. But they will hard-pressed to repeat that haul with a largely inexperienced team led by Olympic and world champion Zulfiya Chinshanlo (women’s 53kg).
North Korea lifted two titles four years ago and South Korea one, and the former could pose the biggest challenge to China in the medals table.
The North’s Om Yun-Chol is the clean and jerk world record holder in the men’s 56kg class with a lift of 169kg.