News and Media


Lima, Review: Venezuela moving up, IWF moving forward with senior World Championships plans

Venezuela reaped the rewards of planning ahead when three of its team won gold medals at the World Youth Championships in Lima, Peru.

“Long-term planning and strategic vision” helped Venezuela to follow up their achievement of qualifying five athletes for the Paris Olympic Games by topping the medals table in Lima.

The IWF will be hoping for similar success at the end of a process of change that moved another step forward at this landmark Championships.

History was made in Lima: two platforms running simultaneously 

There were two platforms in the main arena for the first time at an IWF competition, and technical officials wore t-shirts and chinos rather than their usual uniforms. Whether these two initiatives will be followed up in future is yet to be decided.

Away from the arena in Lima, the IWF’s Innovation Commission, tasked with making the sport more attractive to its own stakeholders and its audience, held its latest meeting.

Top of the agenda for the Commission is devising a way of making the IWF senior World Championships more marketable and less costly for prospective hosts.

Officials looked more sporty in Peru

“It’s the IWF’s flagship event, and we need to make changes,” said Sam Coffa, chair of the IWF Technical Committee and the Innovation Commission.

At last year’s World Championships there were more than 700 athletes in action over 13 days. In 2022 the numbers were 537 and 10 days. “We want it to be all over in six or seven days,” Coffa said.

There are three ways of doing it, all under consideration by the innovation group. One is to use two platforms, as in Lima where all 20 medal events, plus B Groups, were staged within five days.

The other two involve cutting the number of athletes by either imposing minimum standards or using an Olympic-style qualifying system, in which there would be continental quotas. The IWF executive board has already approved a proposal to cut the number of weight categories from 20 to 16, eight per gender, although precise details are yet to be decided.

Sam Coffa (on the right in the photo): “We need to ensure that representation for all continents is appropriate”

Coffa said that the Technical Committee had failed to reach a conclusion last time the subject was discussed.

“We (the commission) met here and agreed that we would like to present a proposal to the executive board, then Congress before the World Championships in Bahrain in December,” Coffa said. Any changes would be made after this year.

“In all of this we have to ensure that representation from all continents is appropriate. For example if you have a qualifying system you might have six or seven athletes from Europe and Asia because they’re the biggest, and two or three from Africa and Oceania.

“The Pan American nations qualified as many athletes for Paris as Europe. As we have seen again here, the success of Venezuela and Colombia is very significant not just in the Americas but worldwide. We have to take all this into consideration. If any federations are left behind it’s a big problem.”

The United States also qualified five athletes for Paris, Colombia four, and Dominican Republic and Ecuador three each. The only European nation to qualify four was Belarus, whose athletes will compete as Individual Neutral Athletes.

Jose Quinones (on the left in the photo): “With two platforms you can cut costs and time without cutting athletes”

Jose Quinones, president of the Pan American Federation, said the two-platform trial in Lima had been a success.

“Mexico, United States and other countries have had multi-platform competitions for many years, and we did it for the first time at our Pan Am Juniors in 2022,” he said.

“We realised it would be useful for the IWF to test it because it cuts timing for a competition in half. That’s good for athletes, organising committees, teams and the public.

“With two  platforms you can cut costs and time without cutting athletes. You can have 400 athletes in four days easily. We can see it with our own eyes here.”

Athletes appreciated the double-platform experience

As for the new referee uniforms, Quinones said, “We have tried that before, too. I know some TOs (technical officials) say, ‘No thanks, we’re not beach volleyball’, but also we’re not a funeral. 

“At every event you could give the officials a branded uniform, different designs each time like the Pan Am Games and the Olympics.

“The IWF board and Technical Committee will now decide whether it is worth trying two platforms and new uniforms at other competitions.”

There were landmark events on the platform too – a first world champion in any age group for Argentina when Paz Casadevall won at 59kg, and a first World Championships medal for Iceland when Bergros Bjornsdottir was second at 71kg. India took both “best lifter” awards, which went to the 40kg champion Preetismita Bhoi – who set a clean and jerk world record – and Bedabrat Bharali at 73kg.

Dionangel Vargas (VEN)

Venezuela’s champions were Claudia Rengifo at 64kg, Sahara Ochoa at 71kg and Dionangel Vargas at 61kg.

Henry Velasquez, national coach and general secretary of the Venezuela Federation, said, “These are truly impressive results. We qualified five athletes for the Paris Olympics, placing ourselves only behind China in this regard, and now we have the number one youth team in the world.

“These achievements are the result of a long-term development plan. The dedication, effort and strategic vision of the board of directors and coaches have been essential to achieve these goals.

“Teamwork, constant training of athletes and coaches, as well as the continuous support of sports authorities and the government, have been pillars on this path to success.

“Surpassing Colombia in these achievements is a clear indicator of the significant progress that Venezuelan weightlifting has made. The most exciting thing is that this momentum appears to be sustainable well into the future.”

By Brian Oliver