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In the footsteps of great Lasha

He was the last winner of the 2023 IWF World Youth Championships in Durres (ALB) and he earned gold in a very convincing way in the men’s +102kg category. Irakli Vekua, from Georgia, completed 16 years old on February 3 but has clear ideas about his future in weightlifting. For the time being, he was clearly above the rest of the field, having lifted 141kg in the snatch and a massive 179kg in the clean & jerk, for a total of 320kg – the silver medallist, Armenia’s Gagik Mkrtchyan could not do better than 313kg.


With a start in the sport at the age of eight, weightlifting is a family affair for the Vekua clan. Vekua’s father is a coach, and older brother Gerami – three years older – was the 2021 European Youth champion in the 96kg and runner-up at the IWF World Youth in the same year and category. “They were the ones responsible for me being here today, celebrating these successes. Thanks to them, I could discover the beauty of weightlifting, and also because of them I could properly develop in the sport,” confesses Irakli.


In reality, the first promising results came at 12-13 at the national level. “It was obvious that I had to follow the family’s path. The three medals I got here in Durres [winner of the C&J and overall, and second in the snatch] were on our plans. Everything went as we wanted,” continues the new youth world champion, who established a personal best at this event.


Moreover, Irakli considers that the load of work put into training has paid off so far in his short international career. “I have nine training sessions per week – some days, I train a double session and others just once a day. I just have a day-off”. However, he also manages to conciliate his preparation with his studies. “Yes, I am of course studying and I pretend to follow a university degree. I just don’t know what… I love to dance, but that’s not to be learned at the university,” he laughs.


After shining in Albania, the Georgian talent will take part in the Nationals in his country and then at the Youth Europeans. “The results I achieved here are of course a great motivation to do even better in the next events,” he confidently admits.


When asked about his idol in the sport, Irakli’s face gets even happier. “Lasha [Talakhadze], of course. He is our hero in Georgia and everyone admires him. I want to beat his records,” he says, obviously laughing. The Georgian phenomenon, world record holder in the +109kg (225kg in the snatch and 267kg in the C&J), is considered the best weightlifter in activity and is of course a reference not only for his compatriots but for many other lifters around the world. “What he has done is fantastic!”


Reflecting on the overall results of Georgia in these Championships, Irakli is clear: “12 medals is a great achievement. We knew we had a strong team and we proved it here”. With four gold and eight silver medals, the Georgian delegation finished in the sixth overall position of the medal chart, which comprises 30 nations having their best representatives on the podium.

By Pedro Adrega, IWF Communications