China’s women weightlifters, affectionately known as the ‘Bar Belles’, are looking more like accidental tourists than hot gold medal prospects on the eve of the Olympics.
While their competitors were sweating and fretting, a handful of Chinese athletes and officials relaxed at a roadside cafe across from the weightlifting venue.
All four Chinese women are favorites to win gold and they oozed confidence during an impromptu press conference at the Cafe Filathlon, which is popular with local weightlifting enthusiasts.
“I am confident of victory and presenting China with one of their first gold medals of the Olympics,” said world record holder Li Zhuo, who competes in the 48kg division on Saturday.
Li set world records in the snatch and clean and jerk at the Asian Championships in China last September and edged world champion Wang Mingjuan for a coveted spot on the Olympic squad.
World championship runner-up Aree Wiratthaworn of Thailand is tipped to push her close but Li is not losing sleep thinking about the opposition.
“Every time I have competed against her (Aree) I have won so I am not worrying,” said Li who defeated the Thai girl to clinch gold at last year’s International University Championships.
Chinese women’s coach Li Shunzhu is also upbeat.
“Of course we can win all four gold medals, otherwise we would not have come (to the Olympics),” he said.
Chen Yanqing, who gained selection in the 58kg category ahead of world champion Sun Caiyan, took the opportunity of the cafe chat with reporters to practice her English.
“I think I will win the gold medal, it is important to me,” said the 1998 Asian Games champion. “I have been in Athens for four days and my training is going well. I like the venue.”