Berestov a surprise winner

Updated: August 24, 2004, 4:40 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Dmitri Berestov gave himself so little chance of winning an Olympic weightlifting gold medal, he spent the days leading up to the event thinking of ways to tell his family what went wrong.

Instead, he needs to work on a victory speech.

Berestov, of Russia, took advantage of a weakened field and a series of missed lifts by the favored Said Saif Asaad of Qatar to win the Olympic 231 pounds (105kg) weightlifting gold Tuesday -- his first title against world-level competition.

Ferenc Gyurkovics of Hungary was an equally surprising silver medalist, putting up an Olympic record 429 pounds in the snatch that was quickly matched by Berestov.

Berestov took the gold with a 506-pound lift in the clean and jerk, while Gyurkovics missed twice before raising 495 pounds. Bronze medalist Igor Razoronov of Ukraine missed a final attempt of 511¼ pounds in the clean and jerk that would have given him the gold.

Berestov's total of 935 pounds was 16¼ pounds more than he made in finishing second in the European championships to Bulgarian champion Alan Tsagaev, who was an unexplained no-show in Athens.

Until this year, the 23-year-old Berestov had never lifted more than 874.5 pounds against a world-level field.

"I didn't really think I could win here," said Berestov, who beat out former world champion Vladimir Smortchkov to make the Russian team. "Then, I began to think it might be my day."

No doubt his first telephone call was to his father. Just before he left for Athens, his dad told him, "If you don't get a medal, don't bother coming home."

Note to Dmitri: The front door key still works.

"I think he said that tongue-in-cheek," Berestov said. "At least I hope he did."

Gyurkovics' resume was even spottier than Berestov's. He was sixth in the 2003 worlds following 10th- and 14th-place finishes in the previous two European championships. His 924 pounds total was 33 pounds more than his previous best against an international field.

Razoronov, a former European champion who was fourth in the Sydney games, matched Gyurkovics' total but settled for the bronze because of higher body weight.

"He (Berestov) deserved it," Razoronov said. "Sports is sports, and it's just the way it worked out."

Asaad, the 2000 bronze medalist, was last year's world champion. But he failed to medal after completing only his first two snatch attempts, missing all three attempts in the clean and jerk.

He was the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar's first Olympic medalist in Sydney, and was attempting to win its first gold in Athens.

Asaad put up 412¼ pounds and 423¼ pounds on his first two snatches, but passed on his third -- allowing Berestov and Gyurkovics to tie at 429 pounds.

The field was unusually wide open, partly because European champion Tsagaev was absent and 2000 Olympic champion Hossein Tavakoli of Iran also didn't return. In Sydney, Iran took the final two men's golds, with Hossein Rezazadeh winning at super heavyweight.

Rezazadeh, who has since built upon the world records he set in Sydney, is favored to repeat his gold Wednesday.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE