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Caracas, Day 4: Olympic champion Dajomes misses big chance for Paris in timing mix-up 

The Tokyo Olympic champion Neisi Dajomes is in danger of failing to qualify for Paris 2024 after a mix-up over timing and numbers at the Pan American Championships in Caracas, Venezuela.

Dajomes had already won the 81kg category by a wide margin with a lift to spare. She needed 4kg more to overtake her Ecuador team-mate Tamara Salazar and move into fourth place in the Olympic rankings.

That meant 145kg was the target. Dajomes has made it before at 76kg, the weight at which she won gold in Tokyo. But her coaching team, led by the Russian Alexei Ignatov, changed from 145 to 146 and apparently got the timing wrong.

Neisi Dajomes and her team

Dajomes ran on to the platform with 11 seconds on the clock, used a few of them to tighten her belt, and had no time to compose herself. She got the bar off the ground with two seconds to spare but never looked like making the lift.

She broke her own continental record in snatch but 121-141-262 was not enough. Salazar, a silver medallist at 87kg in Tokyo, remains in fourth place on 265kg with one qualifier to come, the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand from March 31 until April 11. Nations can send only one athlete per weight category.

There was a lot of animated discussion in the warm-up room afterwards. Ecuador tried to make a challenge. The jury president Italo Barrattini from Chile refused it and explained, “The coach made an error, he did not understand the two-minute clock rule.” The coach thought Dajomes had two minutes when she had one.

There could be a further twist for Dajomes. Salazar was taken to hospital by ambulance when she suffered a lower back injury while warming up at the Pan American Games in Chile in October. She has not made a lift in qualifying since June. If she does not travel to Phuket and weigh in, she will not be eligible for Paris.

Yudelina Meija from Dominican Republic and Laura Amaro from Brazil were second and third behind Dajomes, both lower than their best qualifying total. Mejia was second on 108-136-244 and Amaro third on 108-135-243.

Dajomes’ younger sister Angie Palacios was an easy winner of the women’s 71kg on a day when nobody made any gains in the rankings. Snatch world record holder Palacios made four good lifts and declined the other two, finishing with a sweep of golds on 110-130-240.

Neisi Dajomes after the snatch record

The silver and bronze snatch medallists both failed to make a total. Yeniuska Mirabal from Cuba, 17th In the rankings, retired at halfway because of a thigh injury, which will not be serious enough to stop her competing in the World Cup.

Then 11th-placed Amanda Schott from Brazil was helped off the platform with a leg muscle injury after missing two clean and jerks. She also retired. It is a race against time but coach Dragos Doru Stanica is hopeful that Schott will lift in Thailand.

Mari Sanchez from Colombia was second on 104-128-232, which is 12kg lower than her best qualifying total. She remains seventh. Third place went to Diana Garcia from Mexico on 93-126-219.

Nataly Geerman (ARU) with her medals

Nataly Geerman made a little bit of history when she finished second in the 76kg to win Aruba’s fist ever medal at the Pan American Championships.

“I didn’t expect to win anything against these athletes,” said Geerman. “I’m not a full-time weightlifter. I have a job in security at the airport, so it’s difficult. I’m going out to celebrate with a big meal – Angus steak.”

Geerman, 25, has improved since working with Ecuadorian coach Walter Llerena, who was Dajomes’ coach for years before being replaced by Ignatov.

Hellen Escobar from Colombia won on 95-126-221, declining her final attempt. Geerman made a career-best 90-125-215, and Bella Paredes from Ecuador was third on 95-115-210.

Yeison Lopez from Colombia continued his run of impressive results and underlined his Olympic medal potential by winning the men’s 89kg. Lopez, 25, made five good lifts on 175-207-382.

Yeison Lopez (COL)

It might have been six from six and a world record at the José ‘Papa’ Carrillo Gymnasium. The number 181 went up for his third snatch attempt. That would have given him at shot at Li Dayin’s world record, but the 181 soon changed to two yellow lines signifying that Lopez had declined the attempt.

“Maybe next time,” he said, looking ahead to the World Cup. “My results show that things are going well. I hope to break the world and Pan American snatch records in Thailand.”

The popular Venezuelan Keydomar Vallenilla, who beat Lopez by 1kg at the Pan American Games in October, lifts at 96kg on Wednesday, the final day of the Championships.

Arley Mendez took silver for Chile on 170-205-375. He is not eligible for Paris after missing the World Championships last September. Olfides Saez from Cuba improved his best qualifying total by 4kg on 160-206-366, which leaves him 14th in the rankings.

Boady Santavy from Canada, one place below the top 10, retired after missing his second and third snatches. “It’s disappointing because training has gone really well,” he said.

“I don’t know why but I just didn’t feel good today, and my head wasn’t there for the 207 clean and jerk I’d have needed (to move up a few places). It wasn’t worth risking it.”

By Brian Oliver

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