BARCELONA, SPAIN -- In a display of gritty strength, Israel Militosian, an Armenian on the Unified Team, defeated world champion Yoto Yotov of Bulgaria to win the gold medal Wednesday night in the lightweight (67.5kg) competition.
Militosian's previous Olympic experience of winning the silver in Seoul proved decisive as he equaled his own Olympic record in the snatch at 343 pounds. He clinched the title with a 402-pound clean and jerk on his second attempt. His combined lift total of 745 pounds equaled his 1988 Olympic finish.
'It has always been my greatest dream to be Olympic champion,' said Militosian, 'to be World or European champion has been less important.'
Though the ex-wrestler Yotov did well in the snatch at 331 pounds, he was far below his personal best of 419 in the clean and jerk, only lifting 391 pounds and failing in his third attempt at 403 pounds.
Militosian's extraordinary efforts left him 22 pounds ahead of Yotov in the combined lift and 15 pounds above third place finisher Andreas Behm, who posted a personal best in the snatch event of 320 pounds.
He expressed his pride at seeing the Armenian flag raised.
'I am Armenian, I feel Armenian and I am very happy to represent my country's colours,' said Militosian. 'I think that the whole of Armenia will be touched by my medal achievement.'
The Armenian gold medal winner was no doubt helped by his coach Vartan Milotosian, who is also his cousin and was a silver medalist in Montreal in 1976.
Saxophone player Milotosian now adds another achievement to his total of a previous 22 World, Olympic and European medals.
'I hope that the 'Militosian weightlifting tradition' will continue, ' said the gold medalist. 'I have a six-year-old cousin who has just taken up the sport. I lost a brother and a sister in the Armenian earthquake.'
A surprise in the competition was the failure of second ranked Yong Wang of China, who performed 22 pounds below his personal best in the snatch at 309 pounds and failed in all three attempts in the clean and jerk at 391 pounds.
Bronze medalist Andreas Behm displayed the most intense style, focusing for seconds on the audience, squatting for moments before each lift. His technique rewarded him with a personal best in the snatch of 320 pounds.
Finnish lifter Jouni Gronman failed to get a medal but participated in his third Olympics, closing in on Hungarian lifter Imrie Foldie's weightlifting record of five Olympic Games. Gronman won a bronze in Los Angeles but faltered in Seoul in 1988.