Wait over as lifter Sopita strikes gold

Wait over as lifter Sopita strikes gold

Champ dedicates winto Their Majesties, dad

Thai weightlifter Sopita Tanasan waves to fans after receiving the gold medal.AFP GOH CHAI HIN
Thai weightlifter Sopita Tanasan waves to fans after receiving the gold medal.AFP GOH CHAI HIN

Weightlifter Sopita Tanasan dedicated her triumph to Their Majesties the King and Queen as well as her late father after winning Thailand's first gold medal of the Rio Games on Saturday.

The Chumphon native was in a class of her own when she snatched 92kg and lifted 108kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 200kg -- 8kg better than Sri Wahuni Agustiani of Indonesia, who managed 85kg and 107kg for a total of 192kg.

London 2012 silver medallist Hiromi Miyake of Japan took the bronze with a total of 188kg.

Nicknamed 'Nan', the 22-year-old Sopita powered her way into the country's sporting history as she ended the Kingdom's eight-year wait for an Olympic gold on her Games debut and in her first major tournament in the 48kg division.

She is Thailand's eighth Olympic champion and fourth Games gold medallist in the sport after Udomporn Polsak and her idol Pawina Thongsuk in 2004 and Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakool in 2008.

"I would like to dedicate the medal to Their Majesties the King and Queen," said the newly-crowned Olympic champion.

"The win is also for my late father who did not have the chance to see my success. I hope he saw my victory from above."

In fact, her father Surasak saw her compete for Thailand only once before passing away.

"As Mother's Day [Aug 12] is nearing, I'd like to say that I love my mother very much," Sopita added.

Sopita will get 10 million baht in bonus from the National Sports Development Fund as well as huge sums from private companies which are worth about 12 million baht at the moment.

Her path to glory was made easier after Russia was banned from taking part in weightlifting at the Rio tournament and hot favourite Hou Zhihui of China withdrew due to injury just days ahead of the competition.

Vietnam's Thi Huyen Vuong, a silver medallist at last year's World Championships, surprisingly failed to advance past the snatch round after three unsuccessful attempts at 83kg and 84kg.

Sopita -- who hails from a family of boxers -- was in control throughout the competition at the 6,000-capacity Riocentro Pavilion 2, and went into the clean and jerk leading by 7kg.

Her only stumble came when she failed to lift 110kg on her final attempt of the night.

In a last-ditch bid to snatch the gold, Indonesia's Agustiani twice tried to lift 115kg to overtake Sopita.

She failed in her first try and Sopita celebrated by hugging her coaches in the green room.

"I didn't know what to think. I didn't think she would be able to lift it," Sopita said.

Agustiani was able to lift the bar on her second attempt and her coaches screamed in celebration, but she couldn't jerk the weight.

She said she had lifted 118kg before in practice and thought she would be able to pull it off for the gold.

"I believed I could do it but it just wasn't meant to be," said the Indonesian.

Sopita's success was a huge relief for Thailand's sporing authorities after the country had failed to win a gold medal for the first time since 1996 at the London Games.

Sopita was a successful weightlifter at 53kg but for tactical reasons, she moved down to 48kg and the decision paid off handsomely in Rio.

At 53kg, she lifted 195kg to win the world junior title and was fourth overall at the World Championships last year after lifting 210kg.

Sopita had wanted to follow the footsteps of her father who was a national boxer. However, she was persuaded by her mentor at Bangkok Sports School to try weightlifting in 2006 and began representing Thailand in 2010.

Following the Olympic success, Sopita said she wanted to become an army officer.

Thailand still have eight other lifters in Rio and Boosaba Yodbangtoey, president of the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association, believes they can all win medals.

Sinphet Kruaithong and Witoon Mingmoon were to compete in the men's 56kg division this morning, Thai time.

Meanwhile, 2012 Olympic silver medallist Pimsiri Sirikaew and Sukanya Srisurat will both take part in the women's 58kg category tomorrow morning, Thai time.

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