Talakhadze takes Olympic gold after Iranian Hercules falters
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia had the gold medal locked up when he stepped to the stage for one last lift. Behdad Salimi's shocking struggles in the clean and jerk had opened the door.
He didn't just walk through it, he kicked it down.
The 22-year-old Talakhadze went big on his final attempt in the over-105 kilogram weightlifting division, a 258-kilogram clean and jerk that gave him a world record-setting 473 total kilos for the event. Upon completion, he let out a guttural howl and was swarmed by his coaches, the latest in a long line of upsets at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Gor Minasyan of Armenia finished second for the silver medal and Irakli Turmanidze of Georgia took home the gold after Salimi was unable to complete any of his three tries in the clean and jerk.
"It is fantastic that the Georgians are together like this," Talakhadze said.
Salimi, nicknamed the "Iranian Hercules," entered the final as the heavy favorite and the defending Olympic champion. He looked every bit the part during the snatch portion of the event, cupping his hands to his ears and waving toward a vocal contingent of supporters after he snatched 211 kilos on his second attempt.
Salimi even stole Talakhadze's thunder in the snatch after the Georgian set the world record with a 215 kilo lift. Moments later, Salimi stepped right up and lifted 216, putting him in control heading to the clean and jerk.
But that's where he faltered, according to the judges. Salimi was able to get the 245 kilos up over his head, but the judges ruled that he did not fully complete the lift before he tossed the weight to the floor. Salimi was clearly upset with the decision. He was barely able to get the bar off the floor on his third try after which he waved his finger at the judges the same way Dikembe Mutombo would after a blocked shot.
One of Salimi's coaches gave a sarcastic thumbs-up gesture toward the judges table and the Iranian group had a heated exchange with the judges to voice their displeasure.
"The crowd was making noise, the Iranians were crying and yelling and maybe this gave me more strength to become the champion," Talakhadze said.
He had wrapped up the gold medal after lifting 247 kilos on his second attempt, so he had nothing to lose by going for the record on try No. 3. Talakhadze emphatically completed the lift to touch off a wild celebration, and Salimi congratulated the Georgia contingent backstage.
"Of course he was the Olympic champion and the main person for me to conquer, but he made some mistakes," Talakhadze said. "All my career I have been trying to get this medal and finally I have become the Olympic champion."