News and Media


Team China and Olympic champions take a break while hundreds try to boost Paris hopes at continental championships

Nine hundred and ninety-nine weightlifters from across the world are entered in their senior continental championships over the next four weeks. From the first lift at the African Championships in Ismailia, Egypt tomorrow until the last at the Pan American Championships in Caracas, Venezuela on the last day of February, more than 500 of those athletes will be aiming to improve their position in the Olympic rankings.

The five championships make up the penultimate round in the Paris 2024 qualifying programme which ends with the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand from March 31 to April 11.

Karlos Nasar (BUL)

With nearly 400 entries, the European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria from February 12-20 is by far the biggest of the five. The numbers are boosted by the presence of the United States, whose athletes were given permission by the EWF and IWF to compete as guests in Bulgaria because their government advised them not to travel to Venezuela, with which the US has no diplomatic relations. The Americans cannot win medals but their totals will count in the Paris rankings.

The United States will not be at full strength because some athletes have, like the entire China team, decided to focus on preparations for the IWF World Cup. The double Olympic super-heavyweight medallist Sarah Robles will go for one big final push in Thailand as she tries to overtake team-mate Mary Theisen Lappen, while Jourdan Delacruz has planned all along to miss this round. She is very well placed at 49kg.

Sarah Robles (USA)

Hayley Reichardt, who is only 3kg behind team-mate Delacruz at 49kg, is out of qualifying altogether because of mental burn-out. “I withdrew from the European Championships and the World Cup, so I forfeited my Olympic eligibility. You might be confused… and honestly, I am too,” Reichardt said on social media. She had messages of support from team-mates.

“I’m taking a break from the Olympic lifts and doing some different types of workouts and having fun in the gym for the first time in a long time,” Reichardt said.

China’s athletes dominate the rankings and can afford to focus on training. They lead the way in all five women’s weight categories, and three of the men’s. In four of the extended lists they have the top two contenders.

A statement from the Chinese Weightlifting Association explained the decision, saying: “The Chinese weightlifting team participated in three important international competitions in a row from September to December last year, including the Riyadh World Championships, a compulsory Olympic qualification event, the Hangzhou Asian Games, and the Doha Grand Prix, a qualification event as well.

“Our athletes have adjusted their training and competition states multiple times within a short period of time, and thus could not undergo systematic training. Considering that the Chinese team have already completed four out of seven qualifying events, only one more qualification event is required, in accordance with the Paris Olympic Games Qualification System. 

“In order to ensure the systematic winter training of our athletes and adjust their rhythm for competition, after careful consideration we have decided to participate in the Thailand World Cup, which is also a compulsory qualification event.”

Sara Samir (EGY)

Other notable absentees at the continental championships include Olympic champions Hidilyn Diaz from the Philippines and Maude Charron from Canada, as well as the Tokyo silver medallist Mirabai Chanu from India.

Athletes from the continental host nations Egypt, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Venezuela and New Zealand all have a chance to win gold and improve their Olympic chances.

Among the favourites in Ismailia, where the African Championships run from February 2-10, are the Egyptians Karim Abokahla, Neama Said and Sara Samir. Akbar Djuraev and Ruslan Nurudinov could both win for Uzbekistan, where the Asian Championships take place in Tashkent from February 3-10.

Keydomar Vallenilla (VEN)

Multiple word record holder Karlos Nasar will be Bulgaria’s biggest star at the European Championships from February 12-20. Keydomar Vallenilla leads a strong Venezuela team at the Pan American Championships from February 23-29. For New Zealand, David Liti will be aiming to win a second continental super-heavyweight title within three months on the final day of the Oceania Championships which run in Auckland from February 21-15. 

By Brian Oliver