Australia's Damon Kelly battled back from injury to win a bronze medal. Photo: Reuters
Australian colossus Damon Kelly, the man with the most fearsome beard in the Village, has overcome a year of injuries to take home a courageous bronze in a superheavyweight competition that capped off a dramatic week for the sport at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Canadian George Kobaladze took the gold with a guts-or-glory final lift, overtaking competition favourite Itte Detenamo from Nauru on his final attempt and setting a new Commonwealth clean and jerk and combined record in the process.
Kobaladze's lift of 229kg took his overall total to 400kg, four kilograms ahead of the mammoth Detenamo, who busts the scales at a whopping 163kg. Kelly came in third, hoisting 388kg anchored by a 217kg clean and jerk.
The Clyde Auditorium was full as some of the biggest men of the entire Games started throwing about serious quantities of steel. The sport has been a huge hit in Glasgow and the superheavies are the undoubted rock stars, with the steel bars (that cost almost $2000 alone, by the way) groaning under the bulging discs at each end.
Kelly won gold in Delhi and had hoped to repeat but a combination of injury and some strong form from his two main rivals would see him drop down the pecking order. But the Brisbane lifter, who advises the Australian cricket team and the Queensland Reds on occasion, couldn't have been happier.
Lifters need injury-free time in the gym to fire and Kelly has had precious little of that. He tore an elbow tendon last year, then a quad earlier this year that sat him out for two crucial months. And a month before he boarded the plane, he strained a quad.
"I'm pretty happy with that. It's been a big year, a few injuries, I'm not having a good run. I was very happy to get that total and those lifts," Kelly said.
Kelly lifts weights like Nick Price plays golf. He spends virtually no time at address and simply walks onstage, chalks the hands and goes about his business. His swift technique almost cost him a confidence-building opening snatch of 164kg, which threatened to fall behind him before he steadied.
"It was really good to get that one in. The snatches were a bit rushed and rusty but to get that third one relieves a lot of pressure," Kelly said. "I don't know why (I go so fast), it just developed over time. Coaches try to get me to slow down but I can't do it.
"Sometimes I rush it a bit too much but I don't like to think about it too much. I like to get stuck in."
Kelly said he's been around weightlifting enough to not be distracted by the arrest of weightlifting teammate Francois Etoundi, who headbutted Welsh lifter Gareth Evans and was promptly arrested and hit with an assault charge. He was fined £400 in a Glasgow court and booted out of the Games.
As a superheavyweight your used to waiting anyway. There's always dramas. You learn how to block those out," said Kelly, who also had to deal with the Daniel Koum scandal before - and during - the London Olympics.
Kelly had his son Paddy with him after the event and answered the question everyone wanted to know: Will he keep the beard that has made him a cult figure in the Athlete's Village? Before long they'll start calling him 'Ned'.
"I'll give it a trim. But I'll keep the base," he said, before full consultation with wife Sharon.
If you thought those weights were impressive, the world records in the superheavyweight are mindboggling. Iranian legend Hossein Reza Zedah lifted a ridiculous total of 472kg in Sydney, some 72kg higher than the gold medal lift in Scotland.