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Durres, Day 3: Canada does it again as 12-year-old Emily becomes weightlifting’s youngest ever medallist

Emily Ibanez Guerrero lived up to her billing as one of the most exciting young talents in the world when she won three medals at the IWF World Youth Championships in Durres, Albania.

In the women’s 55kg Emily was second in the snatch, third in clean and jerk, and third on total behind Gelen Torres Gomez (COL) and Rosalinda Faustino (PHI). She was in tears after failing with her final attempt, having made five good lifts, but soon cheered up as she realised what an achievement she had made – the youngest medallist ever in international weightlifting.

“Winning a medal like this has been a dream for me since I was very young,” said Emily, who started learning technique aged six and has “always enjoyed the sport and always enjoyed training”.

She had been messing around in the gym since she was “about a year and a half” said her mother and coach Abigail Guerrero.

Emily’s 79-98-177 effort, a personal best total, meant that for the second time in 48 hours a 12-year-old Canadian became the sport’s youngest ever medallist. Nobody under 13 had won a medal in international competition before these Championships, according to the OlyFanatics database that has results of 34,000 lifters dating back to 1898.

On Saturday Ivy Buzinhani Brustello – Emily’s team-mate, club-mate and friend – won the women’s 40kg title aged 12 years 264 days. Now Emily, whose 12th birthday was on December 27, has made it to the podium aged 12 years 90 days.

Both girls train at the Beyond Lifting club in Montreal, run by Emily’s parents. Guerrero lifted for Spain and has won Masters world titles, while her husband Ciro Ibanez was an international lifter for Cuba and coached in France and Spain before moving to Canada.

Guerrero coaches both girls and Ibanez coaches his son Brayan, who became Canada’s first ever youth world medallist last year.

Brayan, a veteran at 16, lifts tomorrow (Wed) in Durres in the men’s 81kg hoping to post a big enough total to earn selection for Canada’s senior team at the IWF Grand Prix in Cuba in June – an Olympic qualifier.

“Emily’s biggest inspiration has always been her brother,” said Guerrero.

Emily said, “The two most important things in my life are weightlifting and my family.” She could not call her dad from the Ramazan Njala Sport Complex in Durres because there was no wifi signal after the competition finished.

Torres Gomez, the first winner from the Americas here, made six from six for 82-100-182 and Faustino made 78-100-178. Darya Balabyuk (KAZ) took the snatch bronze with 78kg.

Pan Hsing Chen from Chinese Taipei was a clear winner in the women’s 49kg. She did not start her snatch attempts until everybody else had finished, made all six of her lifts and had a sweep of gold medals on 73-90-163.

Pan, who had competed online in 2020 but never in person at an international event, trains at the same centre as her hero Kuo Hsing-Chun, the 59kg Olympic champion and multiple world record holder.

“Kuo is my inspiration,” said Pan, 16, whose two sisters are national level weightlifters. “I am not from a weightlifting family but when I tried it for the first time I knew this was the sport for me. I just love to be on the platform.”

The venue was thrown into darkness for a few minutes when Pan and the Chinese Taipei team were taking celebratory photos on the platform but the power cut did not deter them and they took a few by the light of their mobile phones.

Second on total was the 15-year-old African youth champion Habiba Abdelfattah (EGY) with 69-83-152. Maria Stratoudaki (GRE) put in an impressive performance, making her final attempt at 86kg to take silver in clean and jerk.

That put the 14-year-old, who came into weightlifting from CrossFit, ahead of 13-year-old Nicoleta Cojocaru (MDA) into third place on total with 66-86-152. Cocojaru, third in the snatch behind Pan and Abdelfattah, was Moldova’s first world youth medallist in 11 years. Alexia Sipos (ROU) took bronze in the clean and jerk on 84kg.

In the men’s 67kg Serozhya Barseghyan (ARM) missed his final two lifts but had already built a winning lead on total. His 128-147-275 left him 5kg clear of Mohamed Al Marzouq (KSA), the clean and jerk gold medallist who made 121-149-270, and Bharali Bedabrate (IND) on 119-148-267. Nurasyl Arapbay (KAZ) was third in the snatch on 120kg.

Barseghyan, whose father is a youth coach, started the sport aged eight and was making his international debut. Both he and the clean and jerk silver medallist Ditto Ika (NRU) cited lifters from another era as role models who have inspired them in the sport.

For Barseghyan it was the 1980 Olympic champion Yurik Vardanyan, one of weightlifting’s all-time greats, and for Ika it was his national federation president Marcus Stephen, who became president of Nauru after his illustrious lifting career was over.

This was Nauru’s first medal at a world championships for many years, and national team coach Saul Detenamo said the sport was “coming up pretty strong again”. Nauru has six athletes entered in Durres, four men and two women.

Al Marzouq was in tears at last year’s World Youth Championships in León, Mexico after an injury forced him to retire after the snatch when he was in second place in the 61kg category. He failed with his first clean and jerk today but then made 143kg and 149kg with his final two attempts.

By Brian Oliver, Inside the Games