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Aline de Souza (WRT): historical debut for the IWF

Never before in the history of a weightlifting competition, has the acronym WRT appeared in front of an athlete’s name. It happened today, during the third day of the IWF World Championships, taking place in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. In the B session of the women’s 55kg, Aline de Souza was the first-ever lifter representing a Weightlifting Refugee Team (WRT). After the IWF decision to launch such a team in March, seven athletes are now part of this group and Souza was the first to compete under this status.


Originally from Brazil, and born in June 1999, she managed a 82kg snatch, followed by a 100kg clean and jerk (her personal best is 85-100-185). “I was expecting a bit better, but I am quite happy that I managed to have a total in these World Championships, my first senior ones”. Presently living in Miami, in the United States, Souza attended a training camp for the Refugee Team in June in Sweden, and after that returned to preparation before the IWF showcase in Riyadh. “Everything went very well and I arrived here in quite good shape. My preparation ran smoothly and consistently, according to the plan we had established with my coach [Patric Bettembourg]”.


Commenting on the historical moment for our International Federation, Souza can’t hide her satisfaction. “Nervous? Not so much. I was extremely happy and proud to be the first, not only for the IWF, but also in terms of our group. I felt a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of gratitude in my heart”. Asked about the atmosphere of the IWF showcase in Saudi Arabia, Souza considers that everything is “very well organised and the set-up of the venue is really beautiful”. 


After more than seven years without competing, she confessed taking this challenge with a lot of “emotion, as if it was the first event of my career”. But at the end of the day, she thinks that she “represented quite well the Refugee Team”. This determination will naturally continue in the future: “Always strive to lift heavier loads, so that I can progress in the world rankings”. 


In the late days of April, soon after the constitution of the Refugee Team, a thrilled Aline de Souza had spoken to the IWF. “Being selected to be part of this group was like a miracle! I know very well the meaning of the word and I don’t hesitate in using it: a miracle. When everything seemed dark for us, when we couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, came the news: we are part of the Refugee Team and we can again compete in the sport we cherish so much! It’s a new life for us!”


Initiated in the sport when she was 11, she lastly participated at the 2015 IWF World Youth Championships (where she was second overall in the 48kg category, but won the snatch with a 73kg lift) – since then and until today’s competition, she had only lifted barbells on gyms. “For me, it was a passion that progressively got bigger as I was achieving better results”.  


Back then, in April, Souza had huge expectations. “My Olympic dream is getting closer… It has been a very long road… But with faith and hope, we got here. And I can tell you: each time I lift in training, I feel stronger, I want more, heavier loads. I feel blessed to have this opportunity – and this makes me more determined than ever”.


Is the dream closer to reality after today’s appearance in Riyadh? Don’t miss the next episodes… 


By Pedro Adrega, IWF Communications 


Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia