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Durres, Day 4: World youth medallists show that weightlifting is a family business

Weightlifters from Turkmenistan, Ecuador, Georgia, Armenia and Korea showed at the IWF World Youth Championships that family connections can help you on your way and on to the podium – and a winner from Kazakhstan put in a good word for neighbours too.

In the first session of the day, 16-year-old Park Ju Hyeon (KOR) finished third in snatch and total. He had someone to look up to and learn from when he went into the sport, as his five-years-older brother Park Hyeongo is Asia’s junior champion at 81kg.

Next was the women’s 59kg in which 16-year-old Medine Amanova (TKM) won a sweep of golds to make it a great week for her family in Durres, Albania. Her father Gurbandurdy Amanov is Turkmenistan’s national youth coach and her younger sister Ogulshat won the 45kg title on Sunday.

Their 18-year-old sister Ogulgerek is a junior lifter who has won an international medal and their two younger brothers aged eight and 11 are on their pathway into the sport. They also have two other sisters who are elite chess players, and their mother excelled at volleyball.

“I was a weightlifter myself, I always wanted to win championship medals but it did not happen,” said Amanov, who like his wife graduated at the national sports institute. “Now I am so proud, I am seeing my wish fulfilled through my daughters.”

Taking up weightlifting when it is already in your family seems natural. It can make learning easier, helps with training routines, motivation and diet for example. Amanov also pointed out that as a youth coach he knows just how far to push the girls – not too hard – in training.

Weightlifting siblings can inspire and motivate each other and Chary Mammedov, general secretary of the Turkmenistan Weightlifting Federation, said, “Medine has been the main motivator for the whole family after she became the Asian youth champion last year. All the country knows her.”

In second place behind Amanova was 17-year-old Jessica Palacios Dajome (ECU), whose older sisters are weightlifting stars. Neisi Dajomes won Olympic gold in Tokyo and Angie Palacios, also an Olympian, was on the podium at the IWF World Championships in Colombia in December. For good measure her brother German is due to compete at this year’s Pan American Junior Championships.

In the men’s 81kg, third and last medal event of the day, Levan Ochigava (GEO) made five from six in a career-best 143-179-322, having moved up from 73kg, at which weight he won the European youth title.

How did he find his way into weightlifting? “It was my uncle, Tornike Kokaia,” he said. “He was an international weightlifter, he took me to training when I was 11 or 12, persuaded me to try weightlifting and that was it – this is the sport for me.” His brother Luka is also a weightlifter.

Kwon Dae Hee (KOR) – who made 142-174-316 for snatch bronze and two silvers – has a sister in the sport. Others who just missed the medals are also from weightlifting families. Hovhannes Ghahramanyan (ARM), fourth across the board, has an older brother, Gevorg, who has been on the podium at world and continental age group championships.

Fifth-placed Brayan Ibanez Guerrero (CAN) made only two good lifts but he had family support on the night from his mother Abigail Guerrero, who was coaching him, and his 12-year-old sister Emily. On Monday Emily became the youngest international medallist in the sport at 12 years 3 months when she was third in the women’s 55kg. Brayan’s dad Ciro Ibanez lifted for Cuba, and Abigail Guerrero lifted for Spain; they coach their son and daughter at the family’s Beyond Lifting gym in Montreal.

“Emily’s biggest inspiration has always been her brother,” Abigail said after Emily’s landmark performance. Without their parents’ financial support, Emily and Brayan would not have made it to Albania, their father said. They paid thousands of dollars to fund the trip.

Diyorbek Ermatov (UZB) finished third on total and won the snatch gold with 145-169-314.

The 73kg winner Yerasyl Saulebekov (KAZ) said he had nobody in the family to introduce him to the sport, but his next-door neighbour did the job. “He is a weightlifting coach and got me started in the sport,” said Saulebekov, Kazakhstan’s first winner of the week here.

In a closely contested session Saulebekov made 137-168-305 to edge ahead of Ravin Almammadov (AZE) on 136-167-303. Saulebekov failed with his final clean and jerk attempt of 174kg that would have given him two youth world records. Park made 131-158-289.

Amanova always looked the likely winner of the women’s 59kg and would have finished 10kg clear had she not failed, just, with her final attempt at 115kg. She made 90-109-199, with Palacios Dajome on 88-107-195.

Athletes from Egypt and Kazakhstan passed out after failing with their final attempts when medals were within their grasp, and the clean and jerk bronze medallist Greta De Riso (ITA) was helped off stage by the doctor after missing at 108kg. That left the B Group lifter Enkileda Carja (ALB) with bronze on total to add to her bronze in snatch.

Carja, whose coach Eglantina Kalemi opted for the B Group to help Carja with her weight and to make her international debut less stressful, made an impressive 87-100-187.

By Brian Oliver, Inside the Games