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Phuket, Day 12: Lasha watches from crowd as Lalayan wins and young Iraqi marks himself out as a future star

The final day of the IWF World Cup was not like the 11 that came before it. There were no world records, nobody knocked a team-mate out of the Olympic rankings, and the two biggest names in the men’s super-heavyweights were in the crowd rather than on the platform. Multiple world record holder Lasha Talakhadze from Georgia withdrew after weighing for the second successive qualifier.  The rankings leader has had knee problems and is more concerned with his long-term preparations for Paris. Varazdat Lalayan (ARM) Second-ranked Gor Minasyan from Bahrain also withdrew, along with two others in the top 10, Man Asaad from Syria and Abdelrahman Elsayed from Egypt. When Eduard Ziaziulin, the Individual Neutral Athlete from Belarus, bombed out in snatch only half of those heading for Paris were left to contest the clean and jerk. Talakhadze watched with his coach in the audience as Varazdat Lalayan from Armenia and Ali Davoudi, third and fourth in the rankings, improved their best totals in finishing first and second. Both men declined their final attempt. Lalayan made 210-253-463 and Davoudi 202-252-454. Another Iranian, Ayat Sharifi, was third from the B Group on 201-246-447 where he went for a final attempt to overtake Davoudi, but failed. Talakhadze will be trying for his third Olympic gold in Paris. One of the men he saw today is already thinking about winning in Los Angeles in 2028. The young Iraqi Ali Yusur clearly has a promising future in the super-heavyweights. He was a teenager when he opened his qualifying campaign with a total of 389kg and was just past his 20th birthday when he set a junior world record in snatch at the World Championships last September. Ali Yusur (IRQ) He moved into the Olympic top 10 at the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan in February and finished eighth in the rankings after another improvement today on 195-232-427. Yusur did it with only two good lifts, declining his last two clean and jerks after making a career-best total. “I started when I was 10, and weightlifting is the only sport for me,” he said. “My father was a weightlifter and now he is my coach. He focuses only on me and that has really helped me. “I am very motivated to get an Olympic medal because Iraq has not won one since the 1960s. That long wait is what pushes me every day in training.” That last medal, a bronze for the lightweight lifter Abdul Wahid Aziz in 1960, is the only one Iraq has ever won in any sport at the Olympics. “I would like to win a medal in Paris, of course,” said Yusur. “But I will have four years after that to prepare for the next Olympics. In 2028 it has to be gold.” Ali Davoudi (IRI) Yusur trains mostly in Baghdad and has been to training camps in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. He weighed in today about 20kg lighter than Lalayan and nearly 50kg less than Davoudi’s 181kg. Enzo Kuworge, the 22-year-old from the Netherlands, made a big effort after a qualifying schedule blighted by a serious knee injury. Kuworge was off the platform for more than two years before returning at the European Championships in February. Today he made 179-225-404, declining his final attempt after failing at 235kg. Ayat Sharifi (IRI) Eishiro ‘Tank’ Murakami was by far the noisiest lifter of the World Cup, yelling at the crowd and marching to the front of the platform to large cheers as he made 190kg in snatch. He had to be helped off stage when he injured his left leg on his first attempt in clean and jerk and did not make a total, but he still qualified. The top 10 in order were Talakhadze, Minasyan, Lalyan, Davoudi, Asaad, Ziaziulin, Abdelrahman, Yusur, Murakami and Walid Bidani from Algeria, who made 197-229-426 to improve his best total by 6kg. David Liti from New Zealand takes the continental slot. By Brian Oliver Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Phuket, Day 11: Li Wenwen back to her best – and brave Park qualifies for Korea despite losing her mother

China’s Olympic champion Li Wenwen built the biggest rankings lead in all 10 weight categories for Paris 2024 when she returned to the platform six months after suffering an elbow injury at the World Championships. The young Korean in second place in the women’s super-heavyweights at the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand, also put in a remarkable performance. Park Hyejeong, who is second in the Paris rankings, lost her mother to cancer about a week ago. Li Wenwen (CHN) “It has been difficult, but I came because this is such an important competition,” said Park, 21. “I know my mother would have wanted me to be here.” Choi Sung-Yong, president of the Korean Weightlifting Federation, said: “We worried quite a lot because she is young to handle these circumstances. But we trusted her to perform well. She prepared very well for this competition. We are proud of her.” Li missed the Asian Games in her home nation in October, the Qatar Grand Prix in December and the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan in February because of the injury, which she suffered when trying to make a 130kg snatch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Park won the world title when Li was unable to continue. Today Li showed how confident she was in her fitness when she opened higher than she had done in Riyadh on 133kg. After four good lifts she had already equalled her best qualifying total, and after improving it by 10kg with the next lift she declined the final attempt. Li finished 145-180-325. Park Hyejeong (KOR) Li is ranked 29kg clear of Park, whose 130-166-296 was up 1kg on her best qualifying total. She had another chance to break the 300kg barrier for the first time but just failed with a final attempt at 171kg. “I told you last time (at the Asian Championships) that I would get 130-170 and make 300 for the first time in Thailand,” said Park. “I didn’t quite do it, but now I can tell you I will make more than 300 in Paris.” A challenge from her older team-mate Son Younghee did not materialise. Son made only two good lifts and finished 122-161-283 in third place. Chaidee Duangaksorn, who prides herself on being “the only super-heavyweight in Thailand” was fourth and Mary Theisen Lappen from the United States was fifth. Both were well down on their best qualifying totals and fill the same places in the rankings. The Tokyo silver medallist Emily Campbell from Great Britain, who is third, withdrew after weighing in, as did those ranked seventh and eighth, Lisseth Ayaovi from Ecuador and Halima Sedky from Egypt. Chaidee Duangaksorn (THA) The two other improvers on the day, Iuniarra Sipaia from Samoa and Naryury Perez from Venezuela, finish ninth and tenth on 267kg. All five continental federations are represented in the top 10, so the continental slot will be reallocated. Solfrid Koanda from Norway, ranked sixth, will go at 81kg so the athletes placed 11th and 12th can expect to be in Paris – the Tokyo 87kg bronze medallist Crismery Santana from Dominican Republic and Nurul Akmal from Indonesia. Two 20-year-olds lifted impressively in the B Group. Junior world champion Wang Lin Chen from Chinese Taipei and bronze medallist Taiane Justino from Brazil both made all six attempts to post career-best numbers in first and second place. Wang would have qualified for Paris on 118-148-266 if she had competed in enough events. She interrupted the Olympic qualifying schedule with two junior competitions, finishing second in the continental championships when she was below her best, then winning the world title in Guadalajara last November. Justino broke South American records on 108-145-253. The men's 109kg podium Akbar Djuraev, third in the 102kg rankings and a medal contender at that weight in Paris, posted a big total in winning the men’s 109kg. Djuraev made 189-227-416 in five good lifts before declining the last one. He will have to shed a few kilos while preparing for Paris, having weighed in at 108.5kg. Dadash Dadashbayli from Azerbaijan was second on 177-21-388, declining his final attempt, and Zaza Momtadze third for Georgia on 170-209-379. Hernan Viera from Peru lifted 60kg more in clean and jerk than he did in snatch, winning a bronze medal in clean and jerk on 150-210-360. By Brian Oliver Photos by Giorgio

Phuket, Day 10: Olympic champion Neisi Dajomes takes her last chance for Paris, and Vibert hails strength of Team USA

Two Olympic champions and two Tokyo silver medallists were among the 21 athletes who lined up for top two sessions of the women’s 81kg at the IWF World Cup in Phuket. Only one of them will be in Paris. Neisi Dajomes from Ecuador was the day’s big winner. The Tokyo 76kg gold medallist had to make 266kg to overtake her team-mate Tamara Salazar, who withdrew after weigh-in because of a long-term injury. Dajomes did it in style by winning with five good lifts and had the luxury of declining her final attempt. Neisi Dajomes (ECU) “I’m very happy with that, happy for the team, and I want to thank my coach,” said Dajomes. “It has been difficult because I had a bad knee injury last year.” Her 123-146-269 put Dajomes second in the Paris rankings behind Liang Xiaomei from China. Third-placed Sara Samir from Egypt withdrew after weigh-in and fourth-placed Solfrid Koanda from Norway was a clear winner at 87kg in the final session of the day. Wang Zhouyu from China and Salazar, first and second at 87kg in Tokyo, both went out when they were ranked behind a team-mate. Wang had been behind Liang throughout qualifying and was unable to take advantage when Liang, lifting within herself because of injury, was 31kg down on her best total. Wang made 120-147-267 in second place. Eileen Cikamatana from Australia improved her best total and won clean and jerk gold on 114-149-263, finishing third on total and fifth in the rankings. Eileen Cikamatana (AUS) Kate Vibert, second behind Dajomes in Tokyo, would be in the top 10 at 71kg but for the presence there of her USA team-mate Olivia Reeves. Vibert moved to 81kg and made career highs on 113-145-268 today. That left her sixth in the Paris list but because Jourdan Delacruz at 49kg, Reeves and super-heavyweight Mary Theisen Lappen are ranked higher, Vibert will not be selected. “It’s incredible that our talent pool is so deep I can be in the top 10 in two weight classes and still not make it,” said Vibert. “It’s a reflection of how amazing this sport is in the USA. “We have so many good lifters. As much as it sucks to lose, we push each other. That forces us to be better, to be an international threat to everyone else. The respect for the US team throughout this quad has exponentially increased.” Kate Vibert (USA) Kim Suhyeon from Korea left it very late to claim her place in Paris. Kim had celebrated qualification at the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan two months ago – prematurely, as it turned out. Her team-mate Kim Iseul improved her best total by 17kg in the C Group, jumping from 23rd in the extended rankings – two or more per nation – to the top six, overtaking Kim Suhyeon by 1kg on 115-140-255.  “That’s very good but I was hoping for 118-145,” said Kim Iseul. Kim Suhyeon needed 256kg to qualify. Her first clean and jerk was overturned by the jury, she dropped the second, and the jury intervened again when she made her final attempt at 144kg. Kim waited at the bottom of the steps off the platform and bowed to the jury when they confirmed it was a good lift. “I was very nervous,” she said. “My left arm was a problem again. God helped me.” The loudest celebrations of the day were by Laura Amaro from Brazil and her coach Dragos Doru Stanica. “I wanted to have fun out there and wow! That really was fun,” said Amaro, who improved her best total by 6kg on 112-141-253 to finish 10th the rankings.   “I went to the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics in skeleton – the only woman in Brazil in skeleton. Then I had to choose between skeleton and weightlifting and I made the right choice. “I’m going to the real Olympics! I’m so happy, I love the Olympic dream. The spirit of the Olympics is in me.” Laura Amaro (BRA)  Ayamey Medina from Cuba and Marie Fegue from France were the other top-10 finishers. Fegue is also ranked at 71kg, China may not contest this category, USA prefers other options, and the continental place will be reallocated because all continents are represented in the top 10. This gives a chance to the athletes placed 11 to 14 – Yudelina Mejia from Dominican Republic, Dayana Chirinos from Venezuela, Ankhtsetseg Munkhjantsan from Mongolia and Rigina Adashbaeva from Uzbekistan. Solfrid Koanda (NOR) In the calmer 87kg session Koanda came out after everybody else had finished. She made a career-best snatch and failed with two clean and jerk attempts at 158kg that would have given her a personal best total. Koanda finished on 123-152-275. Koanda weighed in at 84.84kg, which was about 3kg heavier than second-placed Kim Yong Ju from DPR Korea. Kim made 113-145-258 ahead of Anastasiia Manievska from Ukraine on 105-129-234. By Brian Oliver Photos by Giorgio