Uzbekistan's Uzbek Nurudinov eases to weightlifting gold

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Weightlifter Ruslan Nurudinov lived up to his billing as the 'Pride of Uzbekistan' with a routine victory in the 105kg category on Monday, before promising himself a long sleep and a trip to the beach.

"I am so tired, so very tired, I just want to sleep," said Nurudinov, who has undergone two bouts of knee surgery in the past two years, after winning with an overall total of 431kg.

"Then I want to swim. If I'm lucky, man, I might go to the beach here in Brazil."

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Armenian teenager Simon Martirosyan put in a remarkable performance to take silver, the 19-year-old finishing ahead of two men who had beaten him at the European Championships in April with a career-best total of 417kg.

It was Armenia's first medal in Rio.

"I am the happiest man in the world," Martirosyan said.

The bronze went to Kazakhstan's Alexandr Zaichikov, who would have combined for more than 416kg had his third clean and jerk lift not been overruled for failing to fully extend his arms.

The mistake dropped Zaichikov from first to third, although Nurudinov still had two lifts to come at that point.

"I was given that Pride of Uzbekistan award in 2013," said the 24-year-old Nurudinov, who won Asian, World and Universiade titles that year.

"There is one higher award -- Hero of Uzbekistan -- but that is very hard to win. For this gold medal, I don't think so. But if I win in Tokyo (in 2020)..."

The Uzbek had not competed at this weight since he finished third at the 2014 IWF World Championships in one of the most remarkable contests in weightlifting history.

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Nurudinov, Ilya Ilyin and the Russian David Bedzhanyan all broke world records in the clean and jerk in a memorable contest in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

However, Kazakhstan's Ilyin and Bedzhanyan are both absent from Rio because of doping bans.

Three months before those championships, Nurudinov had his first surgery.

"Somehow I managed to perform in Almaty, and then my knee went bust," he said.

He had a full year of rehabilitation and after a second operation in Germany, he had nine months to prepare for Rio.

The contest started at 3 a.m. in Uzbekistan but "most people would have been watching" said Nurudinov, who smiles and pokes out his tongue during each lift.

"I've never bitten it yet," he said. "And smiling helps me to fight stress."

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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