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Asian Championships: China and Kazakhstan set to make mark in Paris weightlifting rankings

Chinese weightlifters are top of the Paris 2024 rankings in four of the 10 weight categories, and after the Asian Championships which start in Jinju, Korea on Friday they may take that number up to seven or eight.

High altitude at the first Olympic qualifier, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Bogota, Colombia in December appeared to affect China as much as most other teams and their results were below their best.

While the Korean hosts have targeted the non-Olympic classes in search of medals, China’s big guns are interested in the Olympic categories.

They have two top contenders in seven sessions and Li Wenwen – who is on a different level to all her fellow women’s super-heavyweights – going it alone.

China is not interested in the two heaviest men’s classes and has three athletes in two non-Olympic categories, 67kg and 96kg.

Kazakhstan will also be expecting their men to improve their Olympic hopes.

Nurgissa Adiletuly is likely to be their main contender if he can bring recent training numbers to the competition platform in the men’s 102kg.

Kazakhstan’s Artyom Antropov was alongside 22-year-old Adiletuly in the preliminary entries but he has moved up to 109kg, as has the Rio 2016 champion Ruslan Nurudinov from Uzbekistan. Nurudinov won at 105kg and has not competed below that weight since 2011.

Alexey Churkin at 73kg and Sergey Petrovich at 89kg could also move up the rankings for Kazakhstan.

There are likely to be big changes to the rankings after the men’s 61kg because all nine A Group lifters have entry totals big enough to make the current top eight.

Two Chinese Olympic champions go head to head, the 61kg and 67kg winners Li Fabin and Chen Lijun. Chen has not competed at such a low weight since he began his career by taking the junior world title in 2010, when he weighed in at 60.88kg in the old 62kg category.

The 73kg is wide open because Rahmat Erwin and Rizki Juniansyah from Indonesia, one and two in the Paris standings, have opted to chase medals in the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia on May 14, and China’s Olympic champion Shi Zhiyong is expected to sit out the session here.

Shi, who is in the B Group here, also withdrew in Colombia, along with many others there and at the subsequent Pan American and European Championships.

Entering to comply with anti-doping requirements, weighing in and being introduced to the crowd counts as a “participation” in qualifying, where only the single best total from a minimum of five “participations” counts in the rankings.

Tian Tao has not competed for more than two years because of injury setbacks and here he will be at his lightest since finishing second to Kianoush Rostami at 85kg in Rio. The two meet again at 89kg, with Li Dayin adding further quality.

Rostami is said to be in good form, while Tian Tao, the 96kg clean and jerk world record holder, has made totals above 400kg five times since he went up in weight after Rio.

It will be a surprise if everybody lifts at 102kg, where the entries include the Tokyo 96kg winner Meso Hassona, Bahrain’s 96kg world champion Lesman Paredes, and the Rio 94kg champion Sohrab Moradi, from Iran.

Moradi is making a steady recovery after bad shoulder and back injuries and goes in the B Group, with his team-mate Reza Dehdar lifting in the A session. He might yet make it into the Paris top 10 here.

Despite the fact that the field features Olympic and world champions, two of them world record holders, Adiletuly is free of fitness worries and could surprise them, as could Korea’s Jin Yunseong.

In the women’s events Chinese athletes have a huge advantage, which is evident in the entry totals: there are wide gaps between the best from China and the rest in some classes.

Mirabai Chanu from India is a Tokyo silver medallist and former world champion, but she is not even sure to make the podium at 49kg, where Jiang Huihua and Hou Zhihui are China’s contenders.

Chanu, who has never done better than third place in the Asian Championships, has had a lengthy rehabilitation from back and shoulder injuries since she made a 200kg total at the IWF World Championships.

China’s Luo Shifang was below her best in Colombia and can improve at 59kg, where Pei Xinyi joins her. The Tokyo 59kg winner Kuo Hsing-chun from Chinese Taipei will make it a high-class contest, as will the presence of Olympic 55kg champion Hidilyn Diaz.

Diaz has moved higher up the weights for only the second time in a career that began in 2008, and her Philippines team-mate Elreen Ando may do better here.

At 71kg and 81kg China can finish 1-2, respectively through Liao Guifang and Zeng Tiantian, then Wang Zhouyu and Liang Xiaomei. In the super-heavyweights, Li Wenwen is on a different level.

Korea can give home supporters plenty to cheer, most notably through Sangyeon Lee in the men’s 67kg.

Lee was badly injured in 2018, and made only two good lifts in finishing sixth on his comeback in Colombia, where Korea also suffered from altitude problems.

Korea has good medal hopes in the men’s 81kg and 96kg, and the women’s 76kg where Kim Suhyeon could put on a show, as she did in finishing third at the World Championships.

Of the 100 top-ranked lifters for Paris – the top 10 in all 10 weight classes – 26 got there with a total made at a continental championships, either the Pan Americans in Argentina or the Europeans in Armenia. After the Asian Championships, which run until May 13, that number is likely to be way higher.

By Brian Oliver, Inside the Games