Kazakhstan's gold medal winning weightlifter is claimed by the Chinese


Click to follow
The Independent Online

When Kazakhstan weightlifter Zulfiya Chinshanlo proudly belted out her country's national anthem after winning a gold medal on Sunday, Chinese state media moved into patriotic overdrive, leaping on claims she was in fact Zhao Changling and on "loan" from China.

The exact details of how the 19-year-old came to be standing atop the podium with a gold medal around her neck while wearing the blue and yellow tracksuit of Kazakhstan rather than Chinese red are not entirely clear.

According to state media, however, the journey is tangled in the byzantine workings of the Chinese Weightlifting Federation and involves a possible exchange of athletes for votes in an international sporting body; shifting Chinshanlo's official birthplace by more than 3000km; bitter local rivalries; and an alleged transgender weightlifter.

Chinese residents are starting to ask questions, convinced the country has given away a prized gold medal while it is stuck in a desperateeffort to defend the overall medal tally it won for the first time in Beijing in 2008. Internet users have taken to the microblog site Weibo calling for officials involved to be sacked.

Adding to their dismay, the athlete representing China in the 53kg class against Chinshanlo, 17-year-old Zhou Jun, became the first ever Chinese weightlifter to fail on all three lifts at the Olympics.

State media reported that she was picked for the team only after her province was granted a spot as compensation for having another of their weightlifters disqualified over rumours she was transgender.

Excuses, excuses: Reasons for failure

Too much Twitter

Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm put her failure to win gold in the 100m backstroke down to her excessive use of social media. "I just felt like I didn't really get off [Twitter and Facebook] and get into my own mind," she said.

Seebohm, who set an Olympic record in the qualifiers, also said she has been struggling with the after-effects of a bout of swine flu.

Too much standing

A French basketball player blamed the opening ceremony for his poor performance on Sunday as his side were blown away by the USA. Nicolas Batum complained of a bad back after having to stand for the lengthy ceremony. "I'm not used to standing like that," he said. "Four or five hours just killed me."

Too much cheering

Malaysia's National Sports Institute is to investigate athletes' complaints about loud cheering putting them off their game, but the institute's chief executive, Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, criticised the athletes, saying "such lame excuses are unacceptable".