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Li Wenwen wins again – and Britain’s Campbell speaks up for ‘beautiful’ weightlifting

By Brian Oliver at Gran Carpa Américas Corferias in Bogotá

The Olympic champion LI Wenwen (CHN) finished 24kg clear of her nearest rival – the Tokyo silver medallist Emily CAMPBELL (GBR)  – in the women’s +87kg super-heavyweights at the IWF World Championships in Bogotá.

This is the first qualification event for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and Li is already in a very strong position after making a total of 311kg.

The top 10 in the rankings (one athlete per nation) at the end of April 2024 – based on the single best performance from at least five participations during qualifying – are guaranteed a place for Paris provided their national federation selects them.

Nobody else in the world is capable of making anywhere near the numbers posted by 20-year-old Li, who won by 37kg in Tokyo – except Tatiana KASHIRINA (RUS), whose world records in the old +83kg class are bigger than Li’s current +87kg world records.

Thomas Bach, the IOC president, “explained the unifying mission of the IOC and the Olympic Games enshrined in the Olympic Charter” when he spoke with the president of Ukraine, Volodimyr Zelensky, according to an IOC statement today.

“We will go along with whatever the IOC decides,” said Mohamed Jalood, the IWF president, in Bogotá after Li’s victory.

Asked if she would like Kashirina to compete in Paris, Li said, “I respect all rival athletes the same.”

She did admit, though, that in the long term she has set herself a target of beating Kashirina’s +83 world records of 155-193-348, which are all better than Li’s +87kg world records of 148-187-335.

Li came out after everybody else had finished in both snatch and clean and jerk, finishing on 141-170-311.

Campbell had to work hard for silver after missing her first clean and jerk at 157kg. She them made 161kg after a good break while others lifted and her numbers went up, and followed it up with a career-best 165kg to claim second place.

“I’ve done a lot of good prep for this and I never miss jerks, it’s one thing I never do, but I felt all over the place,” Campbell said. “This altitude really gets to you and after that last jerk I felt like I was in another world.”

There were far fewer no-lifts than in most sessions here. “Look at that scoreboard, there’s a lot of blue (good lifts) on there,” said Campbell, 28. “You’d think it would be harder for us, at the higher weights at this altitude but that’s a good effort all round, a good session.”

Yesterday Dave Sawyer, Britain’s national coach who with Cyril Martin runs the gym where Campbell trains, had helped Solfrid Koanda to become Norway’s first female world champion when she was without her usual coaching team.

“Solfrid needed that help yesterday. She has been a training partner of mine in the lead-up to this, and it just felt natural for Dave to help her – and look at what she achieved last night,” said Campbell.

“She’s here supporting me today, they’ve come in with all guns blazing, with the same energy for me today, my special support group – Solfrid and the boys, Enzo and David.”

The “boys” are Enzo KUWORGE (NED) and David LITI (NZL), who have also trained at Sawyer’s gym with Campbell and Koanda.

“We’re a beautiful, beautiful community in weightlifting and I think people forget how beautiful we are,” she said after yet another medal ceremony where the athletes showed each other the utmost respect.

The fourth-placed finisher Sarah ROBLES (USA) wore a Father Christmas hat to receive her snatch silver medal, having made 127-155-282.

“Weightlifting is very special and we should be so thankful that we have such beautiful people in our sport,” Campbell said.

Campbell made 122-165-287 and Duangaksorn CHAIDEE (THA) made six from six for third place on 126-160-286.

Another strong favourite, the clean and jerk world record holder Ruslan NURUDINOV (UZB), won a sweep of golds in the day’s other medal event, the men’s 109kg.

Nurudinov, who was 31 last month, made only three good lifts but still finished 8kg clear on 177-220-397.

Giorgi CHKHEIDZE (GEO) was second on 170-219-389 and the Rafael CERRO (COL) third on 174-214-388.

The two snatch medallists behind Nurudinov, Mehdi KARAMI (IRI) on 176kg and Aymen BACHA (TUN) on 175kg, dropped to fourth and fifth on total.