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  • Oscar Figueroa lifted 142kg in the snatch and 176kg in the clean and jerk to win the gold medal in the 62kg weight category.

    Oscar Figueroa lifted 142kg in the snatch and 176kg in the clean and jerk to win the gold medal in the 62kg weight category. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 August 2016

The 33-year-old Olympian is an Afro-Colombian who was among more than 6 million displaced by the country's decades-long civil war.

Oscar Figueroa, a 33-year-old Colombian who was displaced due to the government’s conflict with guerrilla fighters, broke down in tears and retired after winning Olympic gold in the men’s 62kg weightlifting on Monday.

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The 33-year-old Afro Colombian who was born in Zaragoza, a town in the northwestern province of Antioquia. Figueroa was only nine when he fled his home with his mother and three siblings to escape the fighting between right-wing paramilitaries and leftist guerilla groups.

They settled in the town of Cartago, in Colombia's southwestern region, where Figueroa discovered a talent and passion for sports. He dedicated his efforts to weightlifting after a youth coach spotted his potential.

During the Rio Olympics, he was supported by hundreds of Colombians who cheered his every attempt, as well as the failures of his main rivals.

He lifted 142kg in the snatch and 176kg in the clean and jerk for a 318kg total and edged Irawan by six kilos when the Indonesian failed with a 179kg attempt in the clean and jerk.

Farkhad Kharki took bronze for Kazakhstan with a 305kg total, with Japan’s Yoichi Itokazu fourth on 302kg.

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With gold assured, Figueroa fell to his knees in tears. He stayed there for a minute or so, then removed his shoes and placed them on the stage as a sign that he would now retire.

“It’s 22 years since I started and now is the time to retire, which is why I removed my shoes,” he told reporters.

“But I am full of emotion—it’s as though I was lifting for the whole country, and those tears were for all of Colombia. So maybe I will think about participating in Tokyo in 2020,” He added.

Displaced people in Colombia account for roughly 10 percent of the country's total population of 46 million, and are one of the most vulnerable of groups in Colombian society. After nearly 50 years of fighting, the government and main rebel group agreed to a peace deal last month. Colombians will vote on the deal next month.

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