Cuba is ready to host its biggest weightlifting event in 50 years!
Everything is ready in Havana, the Cuban capital, to welcome the best lifters of the planet in the first IWF Grand Prix of the year, to be held from June 8-18. Around 270 competitors from 58 nations will do their best to excel and to get their “ticket” for the Paris 2024 Games, as this is an Olympic qualification event.
In the opening Press Conference of this Grand Prix, the President of the Cuban Weightlifting Federation, Jorge Luis Barcelan, explained the importance of hosting this prestigious event for his country: “It’s a great honour and responsibility for us to organise this competition here in Cuba. We were hosts of the 1973 IWF World Championships in our beautiful capital, and 50 years later, we once again welcome the best athletes in the world. We hope this can be the first step for future organisations and that we don’t have to wait another 50 years to have this honour”.
The Cuban responsible also recalled that having the Grand Prix in Havana will foster the development of weightlifting in the Caribbean nation. “We had a long and significant tradition in this sport and we want to be back to the top of the world hierarchy. This will help a lot on that, as it generates more support to our sport and athletes”.
At Barcelan’s side, Jose Quiñones, President of the Pan-American Weightlifting Federation and member of the IWF Executive Board, was also a happy man. “Our Cuban friends are doing their utmost to ensure an unforgettable competition. Their enthusiasm and hospitality is amazing and everyone will have a great time here!” Mr Quiñones then highlighted the importance of this Grand Prix, as a qualification event for Paris. “It is a milestone in the path of our best athletes in their journey to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. It is in reality one of the five IWF events leading to the Games, together with the 2022 and 2023 IWF World Championships, the second 2023 IWF Grand Prix later this year in Qatar and the 2024 IWF World Cup in Thailand. Several Olympic and world medallists will be here in Havana, confirming the importance of this Grand Prix”.
Jorge Luis Barcelan and Jose Quiñones
A strong field in Cuba
The ranking lists for Paris 2024, built up after the IWF World Championships in Colombia last December and a series of continental championships in April and May, will change over the next 11 days regardless of a number of absences.
The 33-year-old Indonesian Eko Yuli Irawan is entered at 67kg for only the second time in a career that began in May 2006. In the 17 years since then Irawan has won four Olympic medals, bronze 2008 and 2012, and silver in 2016 and 2020, all at lighter weights.
The new-look Irawan, who dyed his hair blond before winning Southeast Asian Games gold at 61kg last month – making a clean and jerk of 170kg on the way to a 303kg total – will be 35 when the lifting starts in Paris.
There are several latecomers to Paris qualifying, from Colombia, the United States, Turkmenistan and elsewhere.
Polina Guryeva, Turkmenistan’s only Olympic medallist in any sport, stopped competing to have a child after taking silver in Tokyo and returns in the 81kg B Group.
There are five Olympic medallists and a world champion entered at 81kg, three of them in the B Group: Guryeva, Aremi Fuentes from Mexico, and 33-year-old Leidy Solis from Colombia, who won a silver at Beijing 2008.
Solfrid Koanda, the 87kg world champion from Norway, has the highest entry total in the A Group in her first competition at this weight. She is joined by two top Ecuadorians, the 76kg Olympic champion Neisi Dajomes and 87kg silver medallist Tamara Salazar.
Another Tokyo medallist starting out after a long lay-off is Luis Javier Mosquera from Colombia, whose wrist injury kept him out of the first two qualifiers.
After taking silver at 67kg in Tokyo he moves up to 73kg, where the man who finished behind him in Tokyo, Mirko Zanni from Italy, is among his rivals. Colombia has a very strong team and will expect to win plenty of medals in men’s and women’s events.
The United States has the largest team of 20, one more than the host nation.
CJ Cummings, who has not lifted internationally since finishing ninth at 73kg in Tokyo, is up in body weight by 20 per cent to lift at 89kg, which he has already done in US national competitions.
Two other Olympic champions are entered in Havana, Maude Charron from Canada and Kuo Hsing-Chun from Chinese Taipei.
On a surprising move, and following controversy over their presence in Havana, the team of PRK (People’s Republic of Korea) had not arrived in Cuba by the time this article is being written. While PRK has not shown up, 13 lifters with Belarus passports will compete as Individual Neutral Athletes (AIN) after signing up to conditions imposed by the IWF Policy on this topic.