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Doha, Day 5: Luo claims victory for China, and it’s a great day for Canada’s Olympic champion Charron

Luo Shifang took gold for China in an exciting 59kg competition that lasted more than seven hours across three sessions at the IWF Grand Prix II in Qatar. There were plenty more winners, though.

Canada’s Olympic champion Maude Charron went six-from-six in improving her best Paris 2024 qualifying total, Lucrezia Magistris from Italy jumped seven places after putting a run of bad results behind her and Anyelin Venegas from Venezuela moved into the top ten. Further down the rankings there was a big move by Kiana Elliott from Australia in the C Group, which started the day at 12.30pm.

Luo Shifang (CHN)

Luo became the second Chinese woman to turn the tables on a DPR Korea athlete who had won at the recent Asian Games. In Hangzhou in October Kim Il Gyong set a snatch world record on her way to victory but at the Aspire Zone venue today Luo made a final attempt at 139kg to win on 108-139-247. That equalled the world record total made by Kuo Hsing-Chun from Chinese Taipei, who did not compete here, and was a 4kg improvement for her at the top of the rankings.

Kim, 20, was second on 107-136-243 while Charron made 104-129-233. European champion Kamila Konotop from Ukraine was fourth on 103-127-230 in a high-quality contest. PRK athletes are not eligible to qualify for Paris.

Kim Il Gyong (PRK)

Within minutes of the start of the A Group, Magistris was in good shape. She had made only two good lifts in four qualifying appearances before today, and had doubled that total after two snatches. By the end of the session Magistris had improved her best total by 10kg to 217kg and will be 12th in the rankings.

The 55kg Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz (PHI) withdrew after snatching 100kg for the first time in competition. It was precautionary after a minor injury worry and she expects to be moving up the rankings again at the next opportunity.

Charron almost danced off the platform after completing a career-best performance at her new weight, having moved down last year. It was a second straight six-from-six for her, after she finished second at the Pan American Games on 226kg, and takes her up to fourth place ahead of Kuo.

“We’ve had a year of qualifying and I feel better now than at any time,” said Charron before being swamped by a group of people wanting to congratulate her, including her American coach Spencer Arnold.

Maude Charron (CAN)

“I’ve had a knee injury and we’re finally learning how to work with it rather than make it worse. I didn’t lift in Riyadh (at the World Championships in September) because of the knee. Starting lower is the way to do it, and it’s working. The knee is staying in its place too.

“I know my body better now, I’m eating less but better. I know to cut weight better, what to eat after weigh-in. It’s not as stressful as it was at the start of qualifying.

“I won’t need to lift at the PanAms in February now. The ultimate goal is to be in shape in Paris, not to peak at every competition.”

There were plenty hoping to move up the rankings from the B and C Groups but because of so many red lights only two made significant gains, Venegas in B and Elliott in C.

Lucrezia Magistris (ITA)

In the last few minutes of the B Group, Garance Rigaud from France had a chance to overtake team-mate Dora Tchakounte but a 7kg jump for her last attempt was too much. Adijat Olarinoye had two attempts to make ground on fellow Nigerian Rafiatu Lawal, who is in the top ten, but missed both.

It looked as though Venegas might become the fourth bombout of the B session when, after being the only athlete to snatch 100kg, she failed with her first two clean and jerks on 122kg. Venegas, 24, made her final lift for 100-122-222, good enough for tenth place in the rankings. Nina Sterckx from Belgium, clearly upset after a rushed second snatch attempt in the A Group, dropped to 11th.

Elliott, who competed at the Tokyo Olympic Games, has two routes to Paris. She can qualify via this 59kg category in which she made six from six and a 15kg improvement today, or possibly jump to 71kg where two other Australians are already going head to head, Sarah Cochrane and Jacqueline Nichele.

Kiana Elliott (AUS) – Photo by Brian Oliver

Mattie Sasser from the Marshall Islands, who lifted at Rio 2016, is in pole position for the 59kg continental place for Oceania with a best total of 214kg. Elliott moved within 6kg of that with 96-112-208 while Sasser did not take up her entry.

“I decided to come down to 59 at last year’s Worlds,” said Elliott, 26, who has been competing internationally for 10 years, mostly in the 64kg and old 63kg categories. “I’ve done 220 at 71 (better than Cochrane and Nichele’s qualifying totals) but it’s a big jump back up, and I need to be making decisions yesterday, not next year.

“The main reason for my confidence and performance today was that I had my personal coach, Martin Harlowe, looking after me in the back room. It’s been nine years since the last time he coached me at an international event and this is only the second time ever.

“This is credit to Sam Coffa’s leadership and the new direction of the Australian Weightlifting Federation’s High Performance Commission, of which Paul and Lilly Coffa are at the forefront. For the first time in my 10-year career my voice as an athlete has been heard by the federation.

“I’ve always said that I know I would perform my best with my preferred coach at international events. It’s good to see a positive change in Australian Weightlifting and I’m looking forward to the inevitable growth in the sport in Australia towards Brisbane 2032.

“What I’m doing is pushing my own limits and seeing what it’s possible to achieve as an Australian athlete.”

That means combining weightlifting with a job in forensic science administration, while the other athletes heading to Paris are full-time weightlifters.

By Brian Oliver

Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia