By William James
LONDON (Reuters) - Svetlana Podobedova won Kazakhstan's third weightlifting gold of the London Olympics on Friday after an epic battle with Russia's Natalya Zabolotnaya in a head-to-head so close that the medals were decided by 220 grams - the difference in their bodyweight.
Podobedova's total of 291 kg, sealed with the last lift of the competition, put her level with Zabolotnaya but because the Kazakh weighed in with a lower bodyweight she was awarded the gold.
The pair broke Olympic records eight times throughout the competition, with Podobedova ultimately claiming the clean and jerk record and Zabolotnaya the best snatch. The total, lifted by both athletes was also an Olympic record.
The bronze medal went to Belarusian Iryna Kulesha.
Podobedova, 26, competed for Russia until 2006 according to the International Weightlifting Federation website, before re-entering international competition under the Kazakhstan flag in 2009.
"This gold is for Kazakhstan. I am grateful I could compete. In 2008 Russia didn't allow me to go to (the Olympics in) Beijing but Kazakhstan gave me a chance," she said.
"I don't feel any offences against Russia ..and I want to thank Russia and Kazakhstan because both countries prepared me well."
Silver medallist Zabolotnaya initially missed out on selection for the Olympics after losing to compatriot Nadezda Evstyukhina at national trials. She was only added to the Russian squad last week when her team mate Oxana Slivenko was forced to withdraw for medical reasons.
"One day before the departure of the whole team I was told I was included in the team and I'm very happy with my silver. For me, this silver medal means a gold," she said.
World champion Evstyukhina made a surprise early exit after she was unable to complete a lift at 125 kg in the snatch section of the competition
"This was the fault of the coach. During the warming up she (Evstyukhina) couldn't do 125 kg, and she couldn't even do 122 kg and she should have started with a lighter weight," said her team mate Zabolotnaya.
Athletes need to complete both a snatch and a clean and jerk lift to post a total, with the highest combined weight taking the gold.
(Reporting by William James, editing by Ed Osmond)