One of the thrills of the Olympics is watching the world’s top athletes smash Olympic and world records as they race, hurl and dive toward the coveted medals. Nevertheless, many new records go unnoticed, and the London Games are no different.
Even people who are not fans of swimming or running have probably heard about Michael Phelps becoming the most successful Olympian of all time by securing his 22nd medal, or of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt smashing the Olympic record in the 100-metre dash.
Fewer people will have heard of Zhou Lulu. While Zhou set a new bar for weightlifting in London and claimed bragging rights to the world’s strongest woman title, the Chinese athlete has had little visibility.
Since the Olympics started on July 27, new records have been set in disciplines such as sailing, shooting and cycling, often far from reporters and cameramen. The men and women behind the new records also often have impressive personal histories.
Zhou broke the world record on August 5 in the women's over-75kg weightlifting contest, putting up a total load of 333kg. In her quest for gold, Zhou bettered the world record of 328kg that she herself set last year at the World Weightlifting Championships in Paris.
The contest was one of the closest in the Olympics and one of the most memorable battles in weightlifting history. European champion Tariana Kashirina of Russia set a new snatch world record of 151kg but saw the gold slip from reach by just one kilo.
Britain’s Ben Ainslie became the most decorated sailor in Olympic history when he won his fifth medal on August 5. This total put him one medal ahead of the legendary Danish sailor Paul Elvström, who dominated at the sport between 1948 and 1960 Games.
The 35-year-old Ainslie now boasts medals from five different Olympic games. Another feat, especially since he was unsure to compete in London.
At the 2011 Sailing World Championships in Perth, Australia, Ainslie was hauled before an international jury after he boarded a TV boat and insulted journalists he felt hampered his progress during a race. While he could have been barred from the Olympics, the Royal Yachting Association finally allowed him to participate.
Italian trap shooting star Jessica Rossi offered spectators an outstanding display at the Royal Artillery Barracks. The 20-year-old police officer missed only one out of 100 clay targets to claim gold.
Her overall 99 hits shattered the former world record of 96 set by Slovakia’s Zuzana Stefecekova in 2006. In the qualifying round she hit 75-of-75 targets, also the best score ever in the sport’s Olympic history.
British cyclist Victoria Pendleton set a new Olympic record for the women’s sprint, clocking a time of 10.724 seconds in a qualifying race on August 5. That time set her up for the final, which will take place on Tuesday.
Two days earlier, the 31-year-old Pendleton took gold in the women’s keirin - it was the first time the event was held for women at the Olympics.