LONDON (AP) — Defending Olympic weightlifting champion Lu Yong is the leading contender when the men's 85-kilogram competition starts Friday at the London games.

Lu, 26, hasn't come near his Beijing gold-medal winning total of 394 kilograms in recent years, lifting a more modest 375 kilograms to win this year's Chinese national championship. But he's an experienced lifter who knows how to handle the pressure of big-stage competition.

His top challengers include 2008 silver medalist and world record holder Andrei Rybakou of Belarus and a pair of Iranians: 2011 world champion Kianoush Rostami and Asian champion Sourab Moradi.

Rybakou's form is uncertain. The snatch and total world record holder took a break from major competitions following the Beijing Olympics and only placed seventh in his comeback at the 2011 world championships.

Poland's Adrian Zielinski, the 2010 world champion, and Russian strongman Apti Aukhadov cannot be discounted in what promises to be a thrilling battle for the medals.

Kendrick Farris, eighth at the Beijing Games, will be the first American to test his strength on the weightlifting platform but is not expected to challenge for medals.

In the women's competition Friday, the 75-kilogram class looks set to be a three-way struggle between Russians Nadezda Evstyukhina and Natalya Zabolotnaya and their former team mate Svetlana Podobedova, now competing for Kazakhstan.

Spain's Lidia Valentin is an outsider in the group, which offers the best chances for Europe to win gold in a competition dominated by Asia. The nine gold medals awarded so far in weightlfting have been divided between China (4), North Korea (3) and Kazakhstan (2).