Chinese weightlifting champion Wang Mingjuan of China won her first Olympic gold in the 48kg class on Saturday.
The 26-year-old from Hunan, China dominated her sport for a decade, but she was mysteriously omitted from China’s 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams.
This year, she was picked ahead of the reigning world champion Tian Yuan, a 19 year old from China’s Hubei Province. Ma Guangwen, director of the Weightlifting, Wrestling, and Judo Division of the Chinese Sports General Administration, told local media in early July that Tian was injured in recent practice.
However, Tian has denied she had any serious injuries. In interviews with local media, she expressed her frustration and bewilderment about the whole situation. She wrote in her Sina Weibo, a microblogging site similar to Twitter: “I do not have drug problems, or any other problems. No clue why I couldn’t go to the Olympics; I am very sad.”
People familiar with the selection process explained the rationale behind the selection process. It was felt that both Wang and Tian could easily win a gold medal for China in the 48-kg class, and Wang was chosen as a result of political maneuvering and balancing among Hunan, Hubei and the central sporting authorities.
Tian’s parents went to London to watch the 48kg class event, and they said their daughter’s performance at the Olympic trial held in April was 16kg better than the 205kg that won Wang the gold.
They explained to reporters that China dominated the 48kg class, and any of the top three Chinese competitors could have easily won this event. The difference, they speculated, was that Tian might have had a chance to break the world record if she was allowed to come and compete.
But they pointed out that Wang was not chosen for the 2004 Olympic team due to non-performance based factors, and expressed admiration for her perseverance.
They hope that their daughter can learn something from this whole ordeal, and continue to train hard for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.