Team Kazakhstan hasn’t bothered with anything but gold at the London Olympics, doubling its haul of first-place medals over the weekend to place fifth in number of gold medals per capita.
Former husband-and-wife team Ilya Ilin and Svetlana Podobedova triumphed in the weightlifting arena. Ilin set a new world record when he hefted 418 kilograms, a 12-kilo improvement on his gold-winning lift in Beijing in 2008. The two-time Olympic champion attributed his success to the supplies of kazy – smoked horsemeat sausage – that Kazakhstan brought to London.
Podobedova triumphed in the 75-kilogram division for her adopted country. She left her native Russia in 2007 after she was cut from the national weightlifting team for a doping offense. The Russian authorities refused to allow her to compete for Kazakhstan in the 2008 games, but now she has gotten revenge by narrowly beating Russia's Natalya Zabolotnaya to take the gold.
There was another, sadder, surprise in store for Kazakhstan's weightlifting fans when the team's veteran trainer, Alexey Ni, announced his decision to stand down as the national coach following the London gold rush. “It's better for Kazakhstan if I go. I've been with the athletes for four Olympics and 15 World Championships. I think it's time to hand over to someone younger,” Ni told Kazakhstan TV.
In the athletics stadium, Olga Rypakova picked up a rare track-and field-gold for Kazakhstan in the triple jump, a curious event that combines a hop, a step and a flying leap. Rypakova's 14.98-meter effort was enough to overpower hot favorite Olha Saladuha of Ukraine.
Overall, with six days left in the 2012 Olympics, Kazakhstan is placed seventh in the medals table, ahead of Germany and Russia. In terms of gold medals per capita, however, Kazakhstan ranks fifth worldwide, having scored one gold for every 2.8 million people.
With more medals expected in boxing and wrestling, Kazakhstan should easily improve on its performance at Beijing in 2008, where it won two golds, four silvers and seven bronze medals to finish 29th overall.