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Sofia, Day 8: Champion Tsikhantsou boosts Paris hopes – and Norway’s Koanda wins by 50kg

The 102kg Olympic rankings tightened up after four men from Armenia and Belarus put on a show at the European Championships in Sofia. Six lifters ranked behind the Chinese leader Liu Huanhua are now separated by only 4kg.

Solfrid Koanda from Norway also showed her class in the evening session, the women’s 87kg. She won by 50kg in making career-high numbers to take her third straight European title.

In the 102kg, champion Yauheni Tsikhantsou went for the biggest lift in qualifying at this weight, a 225kg clean and jerk. He failed but is confident of success next time.

Yauheni Tsikhantsou (AIN)

“I have made 225 many times in training, and I’ve also made 230,” he said. “With good preparation, it will come.”

There was also an attempt at the biggest snatch to date in qualifying when Garik Karapetyan went for 187kg. He missed that one and two clean and jerks, losing ground to his Armenian team-mate Samvel Gasparyan in the process.

Karapetyan is a triple junior world champion and, at 20, is one of one of the best young weightlifters in the world. He will not be in Paris unless he outperforms Gasparyan in the final qualifier, the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand which ends on April 11.

Tsikhantsou, an individual neutral athlete from Belarus, made 181-217-398 to move above Lesman Paredes from Bahrain into fifth place. Gasparyan is seventh after his 180-216-396.

Siarhei Sharankou made a 12kg improvement on his best qualifying total with 178-212-390 in fourth place, missing only his final attempt. Sharankou, 21, is also an individual neutral from Belarus and, like Karapetyan, he does not feature in the simplified rankings because he has a team-mate ahead of him. Nations cannot qualify more than one athlete in any weight category.

Vasil Marinov from Bulgaria wasted a chance to move up when, after making his openers, he missed all his other attempts. Irakli Chkeidze from Georgia was below his best in fifth place on 174-212-386, just ahead of the B group winner Tudor Bratu from Moldova. Those two are ninth and 10th in the rankings respectively.

After 11 attempts had been made in the first 25 minutes, two Polish lifters were already out of the competition. Daniel Goljasz and his 36-year-old team-mate Arsen Kasabijew both bombed out.

The 32-year-old triple Olympian Arturs Plesnieks from Latvia bombed out in clean and jerk. Wes Kitts from the United States withdrew. He has had knee and hip injuries and was not at his best in the warm-up.

Solfrid Koanda (NOR)

Koanda, a medal contender at 81kg for Paris 2024, recovered from a snatch bombout at the World Championships last September with a sweep of personal bests on 120-160-280 here. She was up 3kg in snatch, 4kg in clean and jerk and 8kg on total.

“I learned from what happened in Riyadh,” Koanda said afterwards. What did she learn, exactly? “Never to make the same mistakes again!”

Her target in Thailand will be “just to push through and continue this good work”. Koanda weighed in light at 85.62kg.

It is not often Denmark gets the better of Armenia in weightlifting. It did when Anne Sofie Jensen made all three snatches to take silver in that discipline ahead of Hripsime Khurshudyan.

Jensen was sixth on total, 1kg behind three women who made 227kg – Khurshudyan, her team-mate Tatev Hakobyan and Busra Can from Turkey.

Khurshudyan got there first for bronze behind Anastasiia Manievska from Ukraine on 102-128-230, who won silver despite finishing 50kg behind Koanda.

Khurshudyan, 36, and the German Nina Schroth, 32, both retired from international competition after they left the platform.  Khurshudyan left with a medal, while Schroth ended her career with a jury review on her final attempt. No lift.

Hristo Hristov (BUL)

Hristo Hristov was a very happy silver medallist in the men’s 109kg, having become a father for the first time less than 24 hours earlier. His son was born at 19.49 on Sunday night in Varna, 500 kilometres away from Sofia.

“I had to be here preparing for competition when he was born,” said happy Hristov. “I still managed to sleep OK. We have named him Maxim. Tomorrow morning I will drive to pick up mother and son from hospital in Varna.”

Hristov, 23, made five good lifts for 175-205-380, finishing 8kg behind winner Dadash Dadashbayli from Azerbaijan. Dadashbayli tried to break the 400kg barrier with a final attempt at 225kg but failed and finished 176-212-388.

Matthaeus Hofmann from Germany was third on 172-206-378. Fourth-placed Onur Demirci from Turkey took clean and jerk silver on 168-207-375.

By Brian Oliver