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Guadalajara, Day 8: Armenian Karapetyan claims third straight junior world title – and Georgia has a great day

Garik Karapetyan ended his junior career in style by winning a third straight world title in Guadalajara. The 20-year-old Armenian is a strong contender for the Best Male Athlete award at the World Junior Championships after his dominant performance in the men’s 102kg.

Georgia had a day to remember. Sixteen-year-old Mariam Murgvliani became the youngest winner of the Championships when she took gold at 87kg, Gurami Vekua made all six lifts in third place behind Karapetyan, and Giorgi Kirvalidze won snatch gold before finishing third in the men’s 109kg won by Mykyta Rubanovskyi from Ukraine.

Garik Karapetyan (ARM)

In a highly successful year, Karapetyan has won European senior and junior titles, claimed a snatch silver when finishing fifth at the senior World Championships, and now has another junior world title after making 175-203-378. That was a bigger total by 4kg than Rubanovskyi made in an exciting finish to the 109kg session.

There could be more to come because Karapetyan is entered in the IWF Grand Prix in Doha, an Olympic qualifier that begins on December 4. Armenia’s two other winners in Guadalajara,  Gor Sahakyan and Aleksandra Grigoryan, are also heading to Doha.

“I don’t know yet whether I will lift or just weigh in,” said Karapetyan, who is one place behind team-mate Samvel Gasparyan near the top of the Paris 2024 rankings. “I like to compete all the time. My best moment of the year was winning the European Championships in my own country.”

Karapetyan, whose father Aleksandr was a World Championships silver medallist, holds all three junior world records at this weight and tried to beat two of them but failed both times, on 184kg in snatch and 215kg in clean and jerk. The 67kg winner Sahakyan also failed with a junior snatch world record attempt.

Abolfazi Zare (IRI)

The 17-year-old Iranian Abolfazi Zare was second on 166-199-365, up 17kg on the total he made in winning the Asian youth title in July. Zare tried for 210kg on his final attempt and only just lost it. Vekua made 160-198-358 in third, and fourth-placed Muhammed Burun from Turkey was third in snatch on 161kg.

For the second successive day in Guadalajara there was the rare sight of a male lifter from Sweden lifting in an A Group. Yesterday Victor Sundh made the top 10 at 96kg, and today Joen Vikingsson made 151-193-344 to finish sixth behind Karapetyan.

The trip to Mexico for those two athletes plus two coaches cost about $15,000 but because of recent successes the Swedish Federation could finance it. “Weightlifting in Sweden is at a higher level now,” said Patric Bettembourg, who coaches young lifters until they are old enough to move into the seniors, and is also coach of the IWF refugee Team.

“In European and world competitions for youths, juniors and seniors we won seven medals in 40 years. In the past five years we have won 40 medals. We have about 1,100 athletes in total, so it’s not so much that we have more of them, it’s that they are better quality. Also the sport is getting cleaner and cleaner around the world, which makes a difference in training.

“When we win medals we get more government funding, so we hold training camps for youths and juniors eight times a year and none of the athletes has to pay. For Nordic countries that’s unusual. Weightlifting shouldn’t be just for athletes with rich parents.”

Vikingsson, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering student, said, “It’s great to be able to come to places like this, to compete against athletes from all over the world rather than just Europe. That was my best international total by nine kilos. We’re not going home until tomorrow night so I can go out and celebrate with a good meal.”

Mariam Murgvliani (GEO)

In the women’s 87kg Murgvliani added the world title to the European Juniors gold she won in July. Murgvliani, two weeks away from her 17th birthday, made 102-123-225, which was a few kilos lower than her continental performance. It was also a lower total than the winners in 71kg and 76kg.

Fatma Sadek from Egypt was second on 97-122-219 and 19-year-old American Amanda Robles third on 101-114-215, an international career best by 3kg. Estefany Espinoza from Mexico, fourth on total, won clean and jerk bronze on 120kg and fifth-placed Medea Jones from New Zealand won snatch bronze on 98kg.

Fatma Sadek (EGY)

Jones, a business student, also represented New Zealand in power tumbling during her days as a gymnast. Her father Paul, who manages competitions in New Zealand, was there to celebrate with her.

Another New Zealander who had a good day was Kitini Taihuka in the men’s 109kg, where he made all six lifts in posting 135-174-309. That was nearly 100kg more than his only other international total, made in winning the Oceania youth title five years ago.

European junior champion Kirvalidze was unable to hold on the lead he built by making all three snatches. Rubanovskyi, who won with the last lift, and second-placed Ariya Paydar both made 9kg jumps for their final attempt.

Mikita Rubanovskyi (UKR)

Paydar, an international debutant from Iran, must have though he had won when he made 205kg to finish 168-205-373. But Rubanovskyi, in his first competition since becoming European junior champion in 2022, made 207kg for victory on 167-207-374. Kirvalidze was third on 169-195-364.

Rubanovskyi  said, “I told the coach I wanted to go for it and he said OK. I have never lifted more than 202 even in training, but I prepared hard and I wanted to win. I thought I could do it and I did.”

Ariya Paydar (IRI)

He had been absent for so long, he said, “because of some issues I had to deal with, not because of injury”.

Iran should have better luck on Thursday, the last day of competition, when Alireza Yousefi is a strong favourite in the men’s super-heavyweights.

By Brian Oliver

Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia