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Xugang Defends Title for China

September 23, 2000|Associated Press

Zhan Xugang of China repeated as a weightlifting gold medalist as much by subtraction as by strength, overtaking Viktor Mitrou of Greece today with his final lift in a depleted 170-pound field.

Because of expulsions, illnesses and injuries, only three healthy lifters--one for every medal--were still going when Xugang won on his final lift in the clean and jerk.

Zhan was forced to move up from 154 pounds, where he won in Atlanta, to 170 after the Olympics reshuffled weight classes.

He wasn't the favorite until top-ranked Zlatan Vanev and the Bulgarian team were expelled Friday after three Bulgarian medalists tested positive for drugs.

There was also the suspicious pullout of two former Bulgarians who now compete for Qatar. A team official said they had food poisoning.

Zhan and Mitrou each had total lifts of 810 pounds, but Zhan won because of lower body weight. He skipped his last lift after raising 457 1/4 pounds--a weight he had never lifted even in practice--on the second of his possible three lifts in the clean and jerk.

Arsen Melikyan of Armenia took the bronze at 804 1/2 pounds.

"Before arriving here, there was less hope I would win a gold medal," Zhan said. "But I did the best I had ever done in the clean and jerk, and I had some hope."

Zhan preferred not to talk about the diminished field, deflecting such questions by praising his coaches and his preparation for Sydney.

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