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National championships in Europe: 12-year-old Emily within 2kg of Spanish senior record

A sister and brother aged 12 and 17, an Olympic medallist, an improving Italian teenager and a refugee were among the top performers in a series of age-group and senior national championships throughout Europe.

Arguably the most remarkable performance was by Emily Ibanez, who became the youngest ever medallist in an IWF competition this year. Emily, whose 13th birthday is next week, came within 2kg of the Spanish senior record when she clean and jerked 110kg at the national under-17 championships in Gijon.

In her five good lifts Emily, who moved up to 64kg rather than her intended 59kg and weighed in at 60.2kg, made 82-110-192. That was the highest total made by any of the 101 female lifters in Gijon, including the super-heavyweights.  

Emily’s only failure was a snatch attempt of 84kg as she bettered under-15, youth and junior records 17 times in those five lifts according to her father Ciro Ibanez, who was an international lifter for Cuba before coaching in France and Spain and moving to Canada.

Emily was the top individual female athlete in Gijon and her brother Brayan was the best male on points despite declining his last two attempts because of a wrist problem. He made 140-151-291 for a sweep of national under-17 records at 81kg.

Sister and brother both competed at the World Youth Championships in Albania in March, where Emily finished third at 55kg on 79-98-177, three months after her 12th birthday. Brayan was fifth at 81kg on 131-167-298. They both have dual nationality, as does their mother Abigail, and they competed in Albania for Canada.

Emily Ibanez (right), competing for Canada last March in Albania

Their parents moved to Canada many years ago after Ciro finished his coaching jobs in Europe. Emily said her big target next year is “to win gold in clean and jerk, and silver or gold on total” at the World Youth Championships in Peru in May.

She and her brother have been given clearance by the Canadian Federation to switch to Spain, which both intend to do. They are eligible and are waiting for clearance from the Spanish Olympic Committee, their father said.

At the Italian Absolute Championships in Rome, 18-year-old Celine Delia and the Paris 2024 contender Sergio Massidda won the top athlete awards.

Delia improved on the 194kg total that earned her silver at this year’s European Juniors. She made 87-110-197 to win at 55kg and register the highest Sinclair score. Another impressive performance by a teenager at Rome’s Army Olympic Sports Centre came from Sara Dal Bo. The 14-year-old totalled 202kg in winning at 87kg, an improvement of 20kg on her effort at the World Youths in March, when she was eighth at 81kg.

Celine Delia (ITA)

Genna Toko Kegne set national records in the women’s 76 kg category with a snatch of 100kg and a total of 220kg.

Massidda, who is second in the 61kg Olympic rankings, lifted at 67kg in Rome and won on 135-160-295. The Tokyo Olympic medallist Mirko Zanni made 140-160-300 to win at 73kg. Neither Massidda nor Zanni competed at the IWF Grand Prix in Doha where their team-mate Nino Pizzolato made a successful comeback from injury at 89kg and, like Massidda, is all but certain to qualify for Paris 2024.

Today we are in Paris with two athletes but the dream is to bring six, three males and three females,” said IWF general secretary Antonio Urso, who is president of the Italian Federation. Two special guests at the Absolute Championships were IWF President Mohammed Jalood and Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago.

Sergio Massidda (ITA)

IWF vice-president Pyrros Dimas highlighted the efforts of teenagers at the Greek championships in Litochoro, where 11 records were set. Dimas, general secretary of the national federation, said, “It was an excellent Panhellenic Championship, worthy of the level of the sport. Everyone gave their best and we enjoyed some great contests. The records that have been made confirm the work that is being done at young ages and I am sure that better days are coming for the sport.”

The top performer among 237 athletes of all ages was 15-year-old Maria Stratoudaki, who snatched 71kg in the 49kg category, which is 1kg more than her own Under-15 European record. Sofia Georgopoulou set three national records at 64kg, making 93-114-207.

The Tokyo Olympian Theodoris Iakovidis was top individual performer on points.

In Sweden Joen Vikingsson, who competed at senior and junior World Championships this year, registered a career-best total and scored 400 Sinclair points for the first time. Vikingsson improved his recent total at the World Juniors by 12kg when he made 160-196-356 at the Swedish Junior Championships in Jonkoping.

Large crowds watched the England Championships at the NEC in Birmingham, which attracted 200 athletes and were hosted as part of Fitfest 2023 and the British Indoor Rowing Championships.

Chris Murray, weighing in at 73.3kg, made 148kg for the heaviest double bodyweight snatch in 40 years by a British athlete. Commonwealth Games gold medallist Murray totalled 320kg and will be looking for further improvement at the European Championships in February.

The 26-year-old former Cuban athlete Ramiro Moro Romero has recently been granted refugee status in the UK. He excelled in the 96kg category with 156-201-357, setting a national clean and jerk record.

By Brian Oliver