07/28/2012 12:58 EDT | Updated 09/27/2012 05:12 EDT

China eyes new weighlifting medals in men's 56 kg and women's 53kg

LONDON - China could strengthen its grip on the Olympic weightlifting competition Sunday after Wang Mingjuan's gold medal in the opening event.

Double world champion Wu Jingbiao is the front-runner in the men's 56-kilogram category while 17-year-old Zhou Jun has a chance to reach the podium in the women's 53-kilogram class.

China is expected to top the weightlifting medal standings in London and got off to a flying start as Wang, a four-time world champion, dominated both the snatch and the clean and jerk in the women's 48-kilogram class.

With a 205-kilogram total, she was eight kilograms ahead of silver medallist Hiromi Miyake of Japan. Ryang Chun Hwa of North Korea got the bronze with a total of 192 kilograms.

"I hope this medal will provide encouragement for the rest of the team," said Wang, 26.

Asked why she thought China had become such a powerhouse in women's weightlifting, she had a short answer. "Because our country is really strong," Wang said, smiling confidently.

However, the Chinese are facing stiffer competition in London than in Beijing four years ago, when China won eight gold medals.

World champion Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan is the favourite to win the women's 53-kilogram category Sunday and lifters from Taiwan and Turkey may also prove too difficult for the inexperienced Zhou.

In an apparent move to reduce the pressure on her, the Chinese coaches placed Zhou in the "B'' group where she won't face the other medal contenders, who compete later in the day. The drawback for Zhou is her challengers will know what result they will need to beat her, and can adjust their attempts accordingly.

Wu, 21, is a safer bet in the men's lightest category, which he has dominated in recent years. Azerbaijan's Valentin Hristov and Le Quoc Toan Tran of Vietnam are among his top challengers.