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Doha, Review: USA, Italy, Canada, Colombia  and Latvia boost Paris 2024 hopes despite Asian dominance

DPR Korea picked up plenty of awards at the trophy presentation after topping the medals table at the IWF Grand Prix II in Qatar. China’s women dominated in the Olympic categories, Turkmenistan had four medallists on total, and Qatar’s home hero Meso Hassona was a popular winner.

PRK, whose athletes are not eligible to qualify for Paris 2024, won the team awards for women and men ahead of China and Turkmenistan respectively. They also had arguably the standout individual performer in 20-year-old Ri Suk, who broke seven junior world records and claimed Deng Wei’s clean and jerk senior world record at 64kg.

On Robi points, Ri was ranked behind three Chinese athletes who beat or equalled the world record in Olympic categories. Jiang Huihua at 49kg, Luo Shifang at 59kg and Liang Xiaomei at 81kg all lead their respective Paris 2024 rankings by 11kg or more.

The PRK team turned out in their uniforms at the closing ceremony to cheer their successes. Usually at a big competition all but a few dozen athletes and coaches have left by the time the super-heavyweights lift and the awards are handed out, but not this time.

“It appears that everybody has enjoyed their stay in Doha because more than 50per cent of the athletes and coaches are still here,” said Yousef Al Mana, president of the Qatar and Asian Weightlifting Federations and an IWF board member. “It was a very successful competition.”

Yousef Al-Mana (Qatar and Asian Weightlifting Federation President, IWF Executive Board Member), and Mohammed Jalood (IWF President), in the middle, with the representatives of the best women’s teams in Qatar

There were 19 world records at youth, junior and senior level, 11 of them set by Asians. While Asian nations outperformed others overall, there were successes from other parts of the world. United States, Italy, Canada, Colombia, Latvia, Bulgaria and Fiji all had cause to celebrate.

The Americans Olivia Reeves and Kate Vibert helped to make the women’s 71kg one of the most exciting sessions. Reeves bettered junior world records seven times in five lifts. “I never think about the numbers,” she said afterwards. “Take a breath, make a snatch, take a breath, make a clean and jerk, all I focus on is making the lift. It works.” It works so well that Reeves has made 12 good lifts in a row in her past two qualifiers.

Olivia Reeves (USA)

Reeves totalled 262kg, finishing only 2kg behind Liao. Vibert is fourth in the extended rankings after a career-best total but is 8kg behind 20-year-old Reeves and will probably move up to the 81kg category. Another who made a big gain in the rankings was Olympic medallist Chen Wen Huei from Chinese Taipei.

The Italians won three medals in Tokyo, more than any other European nation, and they are course for another strong performance in Paris after good results for Nino Pizzolato, Lucrezia Magistris and Giulia Imperio. 

Tokyo medallist Pizzolato had not made a total in qualifying because of injury. He moved straight up to sixth place at 89kg with 380kg in Doha, while Magistris ended a run of poor results to move up the rankings and Giulia Imperio improved her best total. Sergio Massidda, who did not lift in Doha, is second in the men’s 61kg rankings and Mirko Zanni is in the top ten at 73kg.

Antonino Pizzolato (ITA)

Two others who went straight into the top ten at 89kg with their first total in qualifying were Yeison Lopez Lopez from Colombia and Boady Santavy from Canada. 

In a high-quality session Karlos Nasar from Bulgaria broke the clean and jerk world record by making 223kg with his last lift to overtake Lopez Lopez. It was his 30th world record, five of them at senior level – and he is still a teenager. Nasar’s next big competition will be at the European Championships in February in his home country.

Karlos Nasar (BUL)

While the women did well enough for China, a programme of three big competitions in three months – World Championships, Asian Games and Grand Prix – appeared to take its toll on the men. Li Fabin withdrew after the snatch at 61kg, Li Dayin and Tian Tao did not start at 89kg, and Liu Huanhua was beaten by Meso at 102kg.

Shi Zhiyong made a respectable 340kg total on his long-awaited return from injury at 73kg. This was his first competition since he won his second Olympic gold in Tokyo. Shi has 12kg to make up on multiple world record holder Rahmat Erwin from Indonesia, who looks to have plenty of improvement in him yet.

European champion Ritvars Suharevs finished ahead of Shi and put 5kg on his best qualifying total. Another who improved by 5kg was the Tokyo medallist Luis Javier Mosquera from Colombia, whose qualifying efforts have also been disrupted by injury.

Honouring the best men’s teams of the competition

Thailand’s team had the same busy schedule as China and many of them did not overexert themselves.

There were four medallists from Oceania. Taniela Rainibogi ended a 70-year wait when he became Fiji’s first male medallist at a global competition at 109kg. Rainibogi’s friend and occasional training partner Don Opeloge from Samoa took a clean and jerk medal at 102kg, his team-mate Iuniarra Sipaia was third in the women’s super-heavyweights, and Eileen Cikamatana from Australia improved her qualifying total by 1kg when she finished third at 81kg.

The dates for the next round of qualifying, the continental championships in February, are: African in Egypt, 2-10; Asian in Uzbekistan, 3-10; European in Bulgaria, 12-20; Pan American in Venezuela, 22-29; Oceania in New Zealand, 23-25.

The final qualifier, which is mandatory, is the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand from March 31-April 11.

By Brian Oliver

Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia