By William James
LONDON (Reuters) - Striking a delicate balance between explosive power, speed and fluid technique, Iran's top super heavyweight weightlifter is expected to lift the equivalent of two baby elephants' worth of steel above his head to claim gold at the London Olympics.
Continuing Iran's legacy of heavyweight lifters, 22-year-old Behdad Salimikordasiabi is the heart of Iran's six-strong squad expected to encounter stiff competition from Germany and Russia to win medals in the men's heavier weight divisions.
'Salimi' set a world record at the 2011 World Championships in Paris by lifting 214 kilograms in the first of two lifts to confirm his reputation as the dominant force in the over 105kg category.
"If nothing surprising happens, Salimi has an easy job to do a 205kg snatch and a 250kg clean and jerk, and then I think he can win," said Kazem Panjavi, a former Olympic lifter who competed for Iran and now coaches young athletes in Britain.
"But the stress of the Olympics is high. Anyone can take this pressure and use it to become Olympic champion. Some of the competitors, they don't train well but when they go to the platform they just fight -- I call them warriors."
As a testament to the role mental strength plays in weightlifting, Germany's Matthias Steiner harnessed the emotion of a promise made to his late wife to stun his rivals and claim the superheavyweight gold in Beijing.
Weightlifting featured at the first modern Olympics in 1896, and is set to draw strong crowds to London's ExCeL arena as male and female athletes lift barbells loaded with two to three times their bodyweight.
The gold medal goes to the athlete who lifts the heaviest combined weight in the two different styles - the single movement snatch, and the two stage clean and jerk. Athletes have three attempts at each style and in the event of a tie, the lifter with the lowest bodyweight wins.
Of the nations expected to take home a share of the 15 gold medals up for grabs, China is likely to excel, particularly in the lighter divisions.
On home turf at the 2008 Beijing Games China bagged eight gold medals, dominating the female event and setting a total of four Olympic records across the men's and women's competition.
However, their 10-person team features just one of those gold medalists, underlining the strength in depth of the country's weightlifting program and the potential for little-known athletes to emerge and claim Olympic glory.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)