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Durres, Day 5: Golden double for Thailand as five more nations join medals table 

Thailand had two debut winners on day five of the IWF World Youth Championships and one of them, Thanaporn Saetia, is hoping to step straight up to senior level by lifting at the Asian Championships in Jinju, Korea next month.

Saetia was impressive in taking a sweep of golds in the women’s 64kg, failing only with her final attempt to finish 93-113-206. That would have earned her second place in the heavier 71kg category where the clear winner was her team-mate Phattharathida Wongsing.

Five more nations came into the medals table throughout the day – Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela, Finland and Syria. So far 27 nations have won medals.

Saetia, 17 last week, was a late starter compared to many of the athletes here in Durres, and she is from a family with no sporting background. The key moment was meeting Sukanya Srisurat four years ago when Thailand’s Rio 2016 Olympic champion visited a sports school in Chonburi.

She persuaded Saetia to try weightlifting and the newcomer immediately fell in love with it. “Sukanya Srisurat is my idol, I want to be like her,” Saetia said. “I have a dream to go to the Olympic Games.

“When I started I paid close attention to what I was told and it was just training, training, training. I like all the exercises, all the movements.”

Thailand clearly has high hopes of Saetia. This was her first competition, and team manager Phetkasem Rataporn said her second could be the senior Asian Championships, an Olympic qualifying event that runs from May 3-13 in Jinju. There would be no pressure on her to win a medal and she would learn from the experience, he said.

“For young athletes here or anywhere we try to make the competition more like a training session than worry about winning medals. We make training like a competition, and make a competition like training.”

Saetia was 5kg clear of Taissiya Alexeyeva (KAZ), who made 89-112-201. Ingrid Segura (COL), the winner at this weight in the past two World Youth Championships with totals of 204kg and 211kg, was third on 86-108-194. Gulalek Kakamyradova (TKM) was third in the snatch on 88kg and won a 10th medal of these Championships for Turkmenistan.

Olivia Selemaia (NZL) had her country’s best ever result at the World Youth Championships when she finished fourth on 84-107-191, the same as her winning total at 71kg when she won Oceania youth and junior titles last May.

Wongsing, also from the Chonburi sport school and also making her first appearance in international competition, was a wide-margin winner at 71kg, posting 92-120-212. Burcu Gercekden (TUR) was next on 88-113-201 and Keily Silva (VEN) third on 87-112-199. Last year’s runner-up Anna Ylisoini (FIN) took the snatch silver on 91kg and finished fourth on total with 198kg.

Turkey had its first winner of the week when Kerem Kurnaz (TUR) made six from six in the men’s 89kg, finishing 144-183-327. It was a great effort because Kurnaz, 16, said had to overcome injury since his victory in the European Youth Championships in 2021.

“I broke my arm in three places in training and also I had shoulder surgery for another injury,” he said. He will try for a second European title in Moldova in July.

Kurnaz’s father and coach Hayrettin was a national champion and Kerem’s 18-year-old brother Hakan is the junior world champion at 81kg. The winner was the only one of 16 athletes in this category to post a bigger total than Levan Ochigava (GEO) made in winning at 81kg on Tuesday.

Nurdos Sabyr (KAZ) was second on 145-176-321 and Valerik Movsisyan (ARM) third on 140-166-306. Ahmad Shammaa (SYR) made 41kg more in clean and jerk than snatch, taking the clean and jerk bronze and fourth place overall on 130-171-301.

By Brian Oliver, Inside the Games