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Sofia, Day 6: ‘You lifted the weights with me’ Nasar tells huge home crowd after record-breaking win

Karlos Nasar did not disappoint a European Championships sell-out crowd of 3,000 at Arena Sofia. “I love you all, you lifted the weights with me!” he told the noisy Bulgarian fans after winning the European 89kg title for a second time at the age of 19.

Nasar broke his own junior world record in snatch and was within sight of his senior world record in clean and jerk with one attempt to come. The crowd roared when the number 224 went up on the board, but Nasar declined the attempt.

“I had cramp,” he said. “But what a great day. I expected to win but this was so exciting because of the crowd.”

Karlos Nasar (BUL) at the top of the podium at home

Nasar made five good lifts for 176-215-391, which was 4kg lower than his best total in Olympic qualifying. He remains 1kg behind Li Dayin from China, who leads the Paris rankings on 396kg.

A huge crowd in Sofia

Among the many people who congratulated him before the medal ceremony was Blagoy Blagoev, one of the sport’s great names. Blagoev was IWF World Weightlifter of the Year twice in the early 1980s. He set 13 world records in snatch, the discipline in which he believes Nasar still needs to improve.

“He surprised them in the snatch today, though,” Blagoev said. “They expected him to make 170. He was prepared for 224 in clean and jerk. The crowd wanted it and maybe he would have gone for it if this wasn’t an Olympic year, but it was a smart move to retire if he was cramping.  

“Karlos is great for Bulgarian weightlifting after so many years of underachievement. But what we really need is a whole team, not just one world-class lifter.”

Nasar with Bulgarian legend Blagoy Blagoev

Second-placed Nino Pizzolato from Italy finished 170-210 from only two good lifts, equalling his best qualifying total.

Olympic medallist Pizzolato went for a big one on his final attempt, 222kg, and although he failed he looked capable of improvement on only his second competition since a long-term back injury.

Pizzolato said, “I went for 222 to try to bring the title home, but the real goal remains the Olympics and I will be ready.”

Marin Robu from Moldova took bronze on total. He also appeared to be lifted by the crowd, making five from six and winning snatch silver on his way to a career-best 171-207-378.

That 8kg improvement moved Robu from 12th to eighth in the rankings, a place ahead of the Armenian Andranik Karapetyan, who had a bad day in fifth place. Karapetyan made only two good lifts in totalling 365kg, down 12kg on his best qualifying effort.

Another improver was Petr Asayonak, the individual neutral athlete from Belarus. Asayonak fought hard after missing his first two snatches, made a good save on his second clean and jerk and finished fourth on 167-207-374.

After Karim Abokahla posted a good total at the African Championships, the upward moves by Robu and Asayonak have bumped Canada’s Boady Santavy down to 11th. Santavy is entered at the Pan American Championships in Venezuela next week.

Nathan Damron from the United States lost ground when he bombed out in snatch. The Albanian Ertjan Kofsha, a junior world medallist last November, also bombed out in snatch.

The women’s 76kg podium

An Italian newcomer took the women’s 76kg. Genna Toko made a 220kg total in winning the national championships two months ago, and improved on that to take a sweep of medals on her first international appearance.

Toko, 21, originally from Cameroon but brought up in Tuscany, made 101-126-227 to win by 11kg. She failed with her final attempt at 131kg.

Nicole Rubanovich from Israel declined final attempt on 99-117-216 in second place. Lara Dancz from Germany was third in her first senior international appearance on 101-114-215. There was a clean and jerk bronze for seventh-placed Laura Tolstrup from Denmark, who made 89-116-205.

Laura Horvath, labelled “the fittest woman in the world” in CrossFit after winning the 2023 CrossFit Games, made two good lifts for 90-115-205. That was 5kg better than her only other total in international weightlifting three years ago.

By Brian Oliver