The women’s weightlifting 76kg competition produced a first for Ecuador and the best finish for a U.S. lifter in 21 years.
Neisi Dajomes Barrera took home the gold on Sunday at the Tokyo International Forum. The 23-year-old is the first woman from Ecuador to ever win a medal at the Olympics.
She led in both the snatch with 118kg and the clean and jerk on 145kg. Her triumph wasn’t without drama, however, as her final lift in the clean and jerk was initially ruled out before being reinstated on appeal.
“I feel really happy and really proud,” she said after the competition. “In the clean and jerk it was the first time I had lifted 145kg. The training regimen had given me the strength to be comfortable in all my competitions, and that’s what you can see.”
Dajomes Barrera is only the third athlete from Ecuador to win a gold medal at the Games but the second at Tokyo 2020, joining Richard Carapaz who claimed victory in the men’s cycling road race. Jefferson Perez won gold in the men’s 20km race walk at Atlanta 1996.
Kate Nye of the United States took home silver, the best result by a U.S. weightlifter since Sydney 2000.
“It feels surreal,” Nye said. “I feel like I’ve had such a whirlwind of a quad, starting weightlifting in 2016, so the fact that I’m here in 2021 with a medal around my neck is unreal.”
Nye, who won the world title in the 71kg program, is the first U.S. women’s weightlifter to win Olympic silver and the fourth medalist overall since women’s weightlifting joined the Olympic program 21 years ago.
“I think USA weightlifting has been looked down on for a very long time now, and I feel like the talent and all of our hard work is finally showing up now,” Nye commented. “I just hope that I can inspire a new generation of American weightlifters to expect more out of themselves, because we can do it, despite a lot of the challenges that are set forth by just being from a country like ours, and the sport.”
Mexico’s Aremi Fuentes Zavala, 28, who finished fourth in the World Championships, took home bronze.