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Real and fake obituaries

New Express, December 7, 2010

Chen Jingkai (陈镜开), a champion weight lifter, passed away yesterday at the age of 75.

In 1956, Chen became the first Chinese athlete to break a world record when he lifted 133 kg in a Sino-Soviet athletic competition, beating the old record of 132.5 kg. He was received on six occasions by Mao Zedong, and went on to break world records a total of six times. The front-page photo on today's New Express shows Chen meeting Premier Zhou Enlai and Marshal He Long on October 3, 1959.

Here's an inspirational retelling of another competition, taken from the archives of People Online, which put to rest alleged western suspicion of Chen's initial record-breaking performance:

In April, 1957, the World Festival of Youth and Students weightlifting competition was held in Moscow. When the competition began, Chen Jingkai's performance was less than ideal in the first two rounds due to injury, and his results were 15kg below the Soviet athletes. When he was lifting 130 kg, he pulled two leg muscles, and although he completed the lift, it seemed as if he had no energy left. The Soviet hosts had already hung up their national flag in the first position on the flag pole. Chen felt a stinging pain in his heart. He looked at the national seal at his chest, and a miraculous strength welled up from within. With calm resolve, he successfully lifted the 140kg barbell. The entire assembly broke into excited applause, and the Soviet announcer was forced to take down the flag. Then the crimson five-star banner rose over the stadium.

Afterward, a reporter asked Chen Jingkai where he found the strength to lift such a heavy barbell. He replied proudly, "I lifted it using the strength of 600 million people."

At the bottom of the page is a non-obituary for Louis Cha. The wuxia novelist, also known as Jin Yong (金庸), was rumored to be dead in a widely-circulated online posting that managed to record and incorrect birth date and a non-existent hospital.

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Although this post was a couple weeks ago, maybe some readers are still interested that in November HERE! Dongguan, the local English-language city guide for Dongguan, did Chen's story in English. Of course, Chen is from Dongguan. In fact, the small town of Shilong is the smallest in Guangdong province but has actually produced two generations of championship weightlifters for reasons that are surprising and integral to the story. (Due to website problem, pdf download only, sorry.)

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