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Yerevan, Final Day: Lasha dashes home crowd’s hopes by taking seventh European weightlifting title

More than 4,000 people turned up hoping to cheer their Armenian heroes to victory on the final day of the European Weightlifting Championships here in Yerevan, but instead they saw another masterful display by Lasha Talakhadze.

The audience of 4,400, the biggest crowd this century to watch a single session at the European Championships, roared every success by Simon Martrosyan and Armenia’s big hope for the future, 23-year-old Varazdat Lalayan.

But while both Armenians missed lifts Talakhadze, the multiple world record holder from Georgia, did not.

He extended his unbeaten run in the super-heavyweights to seven years five months on 222-252-474.

Talakhadze made five from five and declined his final attempt when he led by 12kg from Lalayan, who had a career-best total on 212-250-462. Martirosyan was third on 195-245-440.

These three super-heavyweights were the only lifters to surpass the world record 89kg total of 395kg made by the Bulgarian teenager Karlos Nasar, who took the best male athlete award for the Championships.

The women’s winner was Kamila Konotop from Ukraine, who made 235kg to top the Olympic rankings at 59kg.

Talakhadze won by only 4kg from runner-up Gor Minasyan and 5kg from Lalayan in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Bogota, Colombia last December – the first Paris Olympic qualifier.

He had been struggling with his fitness and weighed nearly 10kg less than his 175.78kg here.

Minasyan, another Armenian who now lifts for Bahrain, was in the audience here.

“I feel better now, fitter than I did in Colombia,” Talkhadze said.

“I enjoyed competing here, I enjoyed winning my seventh European title and I hope to be back for my seventh world title too.”

He was referring to the possibility of Armenia – one of five bidders – hosting the 2024 IWF World Championships late next year, after the Olympic Games.

Talakhadze improved his World Championships total by 6kg with a lift to spare, making 210-217-222 in snatch and 246-252 in clean and jerk.

Lalayan missed two of his attempts, and Martirosyan missed one, declining his final attempt when he could not better third place.

Britain’s Olympic silver medallist Emily Campbell won her third European weightlifting title despite recent injury problems that meant “I couldn’t even walk about two weeks ago.”

She had knee surgery at the start of the year, then an “ongoing back issue” that almost wrecked her preparations for the European Championships here in Yerevan.

“I haven’t talked about it while it was happening, but I didn’t lift the bar above my head until last Monday and I was never sure I was even going to compete,” said Campbell.

“I did no squats, no pulls no deadlifts, nothing.”

She came close to failure after missing her first two snatch attempts, and after recovering she posted her lowest total in more than four years on 110-143-253 but it was still enough to take a third straight continental title in the super-heavyweights.

“My team have worked so hard to get me out there on the platform, my family have given me so much support – I love you all,” said Campbell, 28.

The 11 lifters had 28 white lights and only five reds in the snatch, and unfortunately for Campbell two of the reds were alongside her name at 110kg.

That was 12kg lower than her best effort in Bogotá, Colombia in December in the first qualifier for Paris 2024, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships.

“I’d usually take 110 for granted, no problem, but this time it took me to miss twice to get going,” she said.

“I expected to be champion and I nearly let it go but I managed to pull it out of the bag.”

Things went better after the break, when Campbell came out after everybody else had finished to make 136kg for clean and jerk gold, then 143kg for gold on total before declining her final attempt.

Between her attempts Campbell settled herself with her headphones on, listening to Caribbean carnival music.

She enjoyed the experience at the Karen Demirchyan Complex – “the best venue we’ve ever had for a European Championships” – and blew kisses to the large crowd.

“It’s been great here, lovely place, lovely people, I’ve been really surprised,” Campbell said.

She will go to Cuba for the next Paris qualifier, the IWF Grand Prix in June, but is likely to wait until the IWF World Championships before lifting again, she said, giving herself plenty of time to get back to full fitness.

Cuba would still count as a “participation” in Paris qualifying if Campbell weighs in, and would leave her with a lengthy period between September and next April to decide on her next move.

The IWF Grand Prix in Qatar in December and next year’s European Championships in Turkey in February would be optional, and the IWF World Cup in Thailand a year from now is compulsory for all potential qualifiers.

Second place went to Anastasiia Hotfrid from Georgia, who made her best total since returning to the sport after giving birth to a son, Erhard, who will be four next month.

“It’s like 500 times harder to be a mum and a weightlifter rather than just a weightlifter,” said Hotfrid, a world champion in the old 90kg weight category in 2017.

“Erhard is always there at training with me, he wants to be with me all the time.”

His dad is there too, because Hotfrid’s personal coach is her husband Denys, an Olympic lifter for Ukraine before he switched nationality.

Hotfrid, who weighed in 30kg lighter than Campbell, returned to training a month after giving birth and took nine months to get back to somewhere near her best.

She lifted at Rio 2016 and will wait on her Federation’s decision about where she goes next in her attempt to qualify for Paris.

Erhard was not watching on television. “He misses me so much, we try not to let him see pictures of mum so he doesn’t cry.”

Hotfrid won snatch gold and made 117-135-252, ahead of the Ukrainian Valentyna Kisil on 111-133-244.

Meline Gunal of Turkey made 110kg to finish third in the snatch, where Campbell was off the podium, and Sarah Fischer took clean and jerk bronze on 134kg, winning Austria’s second medal of the weekend.

Announcer Luca Di Marco constantly had to request silence from the crowd when lifters were readying themselves in both the women’s and men’s super-heavyweights.

The fans have livened up the nine-day Championships by creating a very good atmosphere throughout the week but have cheered failures by others when it benefitted Armenian medal contenders, drawing criticism from the IWF Athletes Commission member Cyrille Tchatchet from Britain.

Armenia was hosting its first European Championships, and an organising committee official told insidethegames: “The crowd will learn, perhaps if we host the World Championships next year it will be different.

“It’s the first time we have had a big championships, the first time they have watched something like this.

“We will show information on how it should be in the media and on social media.”

EWF president Antonio Conflitti declared the Championships “a great success”.

By Brian Oliver, Inside the Games

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Check the updated Olympic Qualification Ranking here

Complete coverage of the event:

Yerevan, Day 8: Solfrid Koanda wins in style and Armenia top medals table at European Championships – International Weightlifting Federation (

Yerevan, Day 7: Armenia starts its move towards top at European Championships – International Weightlifting Federation (

Yerevan, Day 6: Two more weightlifting world records for sensational Bulgarian teen Nasar – International Weightlifting Federation (

Yerevan, Day 5: Fourth European title for Toma and Italy’s Reyes wins first gold – International Weightlifting Federation (

Yerevan, Day 4: Latvia’s Suharevs and Britain’s Smith fit and firing at European Championships – International Weightlifting Federation (

Yerevan, Day 3: Konotop heads Paris weightlifting rankings after sensational European triumph – International Weightlifting Federation (

Yerevan, Day 2: “I saw angels” says Romania’s second champion at European Championships – International Weightlifting Federation (

Yerevan, Day 1: First ever medal for Ireland and records for Romania at European Weightlifting Championships – International Weightlifting Federation (

Pizzolato can help Italy bounce back at European Championships – International Weightlifting Federation (