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Caracas, Day 1: Mexican winner Lopez has Paris in her sights after moving up 33 places in rankings

Ana Lopez overtook three Mexican team-mates and moved from nowhere to a strong position in the Olympic rankings when she won the women’s 49kg on the opening day of the Pan American Championships in Venezuela.

In the extended list, which features four Mexicans, Lopez was 48th and last at this weight. Now she is ahead of her three team-mates in 15th place on that list, and 11th in the simplified rankings. Nations cannot qualify more than one athlete in any weight category.

“I’m confident about making it to Paris, I’m feeling good,” said Lopez, who lifted at 55kg in the Tokyo Games, at which weight she regularly hit the 200kg mark. In her first attempt at 49kg, after losing more than 10 per cent of her body weight, Lopez bombed out in snatch.

That was at the IWF Grand Prix in Qatar in December. This time she made all three snatches. Why the big turnaround in form?

Ana Lopez (MEX)

“For months I found it difficult to adapt to being 49,” she said. “It was really, really tough to begin with. I felt so tired. Now I have adapted better to this weight, I had more courage today and I’m so much happier.”

Lopez, 29, finished ahead of the woman who is 10th in the rankings, Katherin Echandia from Venezuela, who was a Youth Olympics champion in 2018.

Echandia had the backing of a good-sized crowd at the José ‘Papa’ Carrillo Gymnasium in the Parque Miranda Sports Complex, a venue for the 1983 Pan American Games. She had two attempts on 106kg to go ahead of Lopez but failed with both to finish 83-102-185. That was 5kg down on her best qualifying total.

Lopez’ team-mate Andrea De La Herran made only good lifts in her 80-95-175 in third place.

Dominican Republic also has more than one contender. Beatriz Piron, a triple Olympian and mother of three, withdrew after weighing in. Dahiana Ortiz had a chance to go ahead of eight-placed Piron. But after making her opening snatch at 80kg she failed twice, then withdrew from clean and jerk.

Doris Marrero, IWF Vice-President; Mohammed Jalood, IWF President; Mervin Maldonado, Venezuela’s Sports Minister; José Quiñones, Pan-American Weightlifting Federation President

Shoely Mego from Peru, another who had never made a total at 49kg after dropping down from 55kg, was fourth on 73-94-167. Mego regularly hit the 190s as a 55.

Mexico and Venezuela cleaned up in the non-Olympic categories. The only two women’s 45kg entries were from the host nation. Victoria Tovar made 68-87-155 to finish well clear of Mariangeli Martinez, sixth at the World Junior Championships four months ago, who made only two good lifts for 62-82-144.

Two Mexicans among four entries in the men’s 55kg finished first and second. Juan Barco made 101-127-228 ahead of junior world champion José Poox on 99-127-226. Howard Roche from Puerto Rico was third.

By Brian Oliver

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