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The triumph of Kianoush Rostami

The men’s 85kg category looks likely to be one of the highlights of next year’s IWF World Championships and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after a thrilling contest in Almaty, Kazakhstan last night.

There was a first title of the 2014 IWF World Championships for Iran and three impressive performances by lifters aged 20 and 21 from China and Russia. The Bulgarian, Ivan Markov, also contributed to the excitement and would have won but for his only failure of the night with his sixth lift.

The eventual winner, Kianoush Rostami, made a mess of his first lift in the clean-and-jerk. As the clock ticked down below 10 seconds he was still tightening his belt, and when he got the bar above his head he could not control it.

Rostami ended up with his back to the judges and still got the verdict from one of them but two red lights signified a no-lift. Rostami failed with his second attempt too and had to make his third to go into the lead. He looked as if he had lost control of the 213kg above his head, but steadied himself and cheekily asked the judges if it was a good lift before dropping the bar.

Even then Rostami, who had finished second behind Markov in the snatch, had to wait. Markov failed at 214kg, then the 20-year-old Russian Artem Okulov went for 218kg, which would have equaled the oldest senior world record in the book, set in 1998 by Yong Zhang of China.

Okulov failed and so, too, did the Chinese, Tao Tian, who tried to beat Zhang’s world record when he went from 205kg up to 219kg in an attempt to win a medal. He cleaned it and looked for a split-second as though he might make the lift, but just failed.

Okulov took bronze in the clean-and-jerk and overall. His total of 385kg was six short of Rostami and five behind Markov, but he looks sure to improve. So, too, does his 21-year-old fellow Russian Apti Aukhadov, who would have been on the podium had he succeeded with either of his last two attempts at 213kg.

“I really enjoyed the competition, and it will make me train even harder,” Okulov said. “I really appreciate the rivalry, and I’ll see you all in Rio.” Markov, too, was keen to renew rivalry, especially with Rostami.

After celebrating his victory Rostami confessed he had nearly quit weightlifting two years ago because of internal conflicts. “I nearly gave up weightlifting,” he said.

Rostami’s enthusiasm returned, he said, when there was a change of coaches. He said he regained his form and confidence. Rostami travelled to Kazakhstan expecting not just to win, but to break that 1998 world record. “I’m angry I didn’t get it,” he said. “But I will do it.”

The snatch bronze went to Andrei Rybakou of Belarus – the first time he won anything other gold, having won nine gold medals in previous IWF World Championships. Ulugbek Alimov of Uzbekistan took the clean-and-jerk silver.