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Iranian giant Salimikordasiabi big favourite for super heavyweight gold

08/07/2012 01:45 EDT | Updated 10/06/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - When Iranian super heavyweight Behdad Salimikordasiabi squats with 325 kilograms on his shoulders, the other weightlifters in the training hall pause to watch.

When he's done, some come over to ask for a joint picture.

Measuring 1.98 metres (6-foot-6) tall and tipping the scales at 165 kilograms (364 pounds), the Iranian giant is literally the big man of the weightlifting competition in London.

When the double world champion competes in the heaviest and final weight class on Tuesday, scores of Iranians will be cheering for him in the weightlifting arena, and millions more in his homeland.

"My main goal in (the) London 2012 Olympics is to get the gold medal because I have been training very hard since last year, and due to the training camps I even could not visit my family," he said in comments translated from Persian.

Salimikordasiabi, 22, is undefeated in international competitions since 2009, winning world titles in 2010 and 2011 and sweeping four Asian championships 2009-2012.

He set a snatch world record of 214 kilograms at the 2011 worlds in Paris, reaching a total weight of 464 kilograms and beating his second-placed countryman Sajjad Anoushiravani by 25 kilos.

To many Iranians, the question isn't whether Salimikordasiabi will finish on top of the podium in London. It's whether he'll also break the clean and jerk and total world records held by another countryman, Hossein Rezazadeh, a double Olympic champion and current head coach of the Iranian weightlifting team.

"I cannot say for sure whether I'm going to set new records," Salimikordasiabi said. "It depends on the day of the competition. After I make sure I will get the gold, I will think about breaking records."

Salimikordasiabi said he considers Anoushiravani and defending Olympic champion Matthias Steiner of Germany his main challengers.

But judging by their training lifts, Anoushiravani will struggle to keep up with his compatriot. During their squats last week, Salimikordasiabi added plates to the bar after Anoushiravani had finished his turn.

It's also hard to see Steiner repeating his gold from Beijing. He missed the 2011 worlds due to injury and hasn't come close since to the 461-kilogram total he amassed four years ago. His most recent result is 424 kilograms, which was enough for second place second in the European championships in April.

Another lifter to watch out for is the man who beat Steiner at the European championships, Ruslan Albegov of Russia. He lifted 429 kilograms in that competition but reached 460 kilograms in the Russian championships in May.

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