When I entered the lottery for Olympic tickets my strategy was to go for a range of cheaper tickets in what I perceived as being the less popular sports. That way I get a chance of securing access to one or two events. Which is how I ended up with tickets to see to the weightlifting on the morning of the first Sunday of the Games.
What I had tickets for were the men’s 56kg and the women’s 53kg Group B sessions. Weightlifting, a bit like boxing, is divided up into weight categories so that athletes of a similar size compete against each other. So these were some of the more lighter categories. Being group B sessions they were also for weightlifters who have qualified lower down the order and who are not expected to challenge for a medal.
So what I was expecting from the morning was nothing particularly spectacular. I wanted to soak up a bit of the Olympic atmosphere and maybe learn a little about a sport that to be honest I know very little about.
I got a lot more than I bargained for thanks to the extraordinary performance of Yun Chol Om.
I got to watch this North Korean lift 168kg in the clean and jerk. Putting himself in the gold medal position, equalling the world record, and breaking the Olympic record as he did so. Apparently, this is not supposed to happen. Group B athletes aren’t supposed to challenge for a medal. So it came as a bit of a surprise – not least to the weightlifters waiting to participate in Group A later that day.
I don’t know if most of the audience were aware quite how extraordinary what they were seeing was – but it was incredibly thrilling nonetheless. I will not forget in a hurry the sight of Om lifting that weight above his head and all of us in the hall rising to our feet cheering.
I didn’t expect to be a witness to the breaking of an Olympic record and to see only the 5th man in history lift three times his own body weight!
More about Yun Chol Om here:
- BBC Sport: Om secures surprise weightlifting gold for North Korea
- Independent: Weightlifting: New Olympic record for Om Yun Chol
- ESPN: Om Yun Chol wins weightlifting gold