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1ST LEAD Nurudinov's OR wins first weightlifting gold for Uzbekistan By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Ruslan Nurudinov clinched the first-ever gold medal for Uzbekistan in weightlifting on Monday, setting a new Olympic record in the clean and jerk for the 105-kilogramme class along the way.

Nurudinov, 24, lifted a combined 431kg, crushing the competition. Armenia‘s Simon Martirosyan came in a distant second and took silver with a total of 417kg, followed by bronze winner Alexandr Zaichikov of Kazakhstan with 416kg.

Nurudinov had set the bar high early on in the Rio de Janeiro competition, lifting the most in the snatch at 194kg - matched only by his countryman Ivan Efremov.

Spectators stomped their feet and cheered as the weightlifters screamed, grunted and grimaced their way through higher and higher weights.

Nurudinov went on to lift 237kg in the clean and jerk, 1kg more than the Olympic record set in 2008 by Andrei Aramnau of Belarus and a full 10kg ahead of Martirosyan.

"I wanted much more. I wanted 243kg because I am lifting 240kg in training," Nurudinov told journalists after the competition.

The weightlifter, who had finished fourth at the London Olympics four years ago, said he had only nine months to prepare for this year‘s Games, after twice undergoing surgery in Germany on the meniscus in his left knee.

Nurudinov, who kissed the word Uzbekistan emblazoned on the front of his weightlifting suit and flew his country‘s flag after winning the competition, said he already knew what he was going to do next.

"If I‘m lucky, man, I go to the beach in Brazil," he said with a laugh.

Silver medallist Martirosyan, meanwhile, declared himself the "happiest person in the world" after becoming the youngest medal winner in his event at just 19 years old.

"You always have to work hard and working hard, you will succeed," he said.

Zaichikov, who had been one of the favourites for the event as the 2015 world champion, was less enthusiastic about his third place finish. He blamed it on an injury he had sustained to his arm and the fact that he did not have "much time for preparation" because of another competition he took part in.

Zaichikov‘s medal is the fifth for Kazakhstan in weightlifting at the Rio Olympics. Only China has clinched more with seven.

Monday‘s three medallists all came from countries that German weightlifting coach Oliver Caruso had recently accused of systematic doping in an interview with the newspaper Bild. Besides Uzbekistan, Armenia and Kazakhstan, the frustrated coach had also pointed the finger at Russia, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.

Zaichikov had been banned from competition for two years in 2013 after testing positive for a steroid.

When asked about the German accusation on Monday, Nurudinov called the question "inappropriate" and maintained that his country "has never been criticized for using doping."

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