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Doha, Day 5: Luo claims victory for China, and it’s a great day for Canada’s Olympic champion Charron

Luo Shifang took gold for China in an exciting 59kg competition that lasted more than seven hours across three sessions at the IWF Grand Prix II in Qatar. There were plenty more winners, though. Canada’s Olympic champion Maude Charron went six-from-six in improving her best Paris 2024 qualifying total, Lucrezia Magistris from Italy jumped seven places after putting a run of bad results behind her and Anyelin Venegas from Venezuela moved into the top ten. Further down the rankings there was a big move by Kiana Elliott from Australia in the C Group, which started the day at 12.30pm. Luo Shifang (CHN) Luo became the second Chinese woman to turn the tables on a DPR Korea athlete who had won at the recent Asian Games. In Hangzhou in October Kim Il Gyong set a snatch world record on her way to victory but at the Aspire Zone venue today Luo made a final attempt at 139kg to win on 108-139-247. That equalled the world record total made by Kuo Hsing-Chun from Chinese Taipei, who did not compete here, and was a 4kg improvement for her at the top of the rankings. Kim, 20, was second on 107-136-243 while Charron made 104-129-233. European champion Kamila Konotop from Ukraine was fourth on 103-127-230 in a high-quality contest. PRK athletes are not eligible to qualify for Paris. Kim Il Gyong (PRK) Within minutes of the start of the A Group, Magistris was in good shape. She had made only two good lifts in four qualifying appearances before today, and had doubled that total after two snatches. By the end of the session Magistris had improved her best total by 10kg to 217kg and will be 12th in the rankings. The 55kg Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz (PHI) withdrew after snatching 100kg for the first time in competition. It was precautionary after a minor injury worry and she expects to be moving up the rankings again at the next opportunity. Charron almost danced off the platform after completing a career-best performance at her new weight, having moved down last year. It was a second straight six-from-six for her, after she finished second at the Pan American Games on 226kg, and takes her up to fourth place ahead of Kuo. “We’ve had a year of qualifying and I feel better now than at any time,” said Charron before being swamped by a group of people wanting to congratulate her, including her American coach Spencer Arnold. Maude Charron (CAN) “I’ve had a knee injury and we’re finally learning how to work with it rather than make it worse. I didn’t lift in Riyadh (at the World Championships in September) because of the knee. Starting lower is the way to do it, and it’s working. The knee is staying in its place too. “I know my body better now, I’m eating less but better. I know to cut weight better, what to eat after weigh-in. It’s not as stressful as it was at the start of qualifying. “I won’t need to lift at the PanAms in February now. The ultimate goal is to be in shape in Paris, not to peak at every competition.” There were plenty hoping to move up the rankings from the B and C Groups but because of so many red lights only two made significant gains, Venegas in B and Elliott in C. Lucrezia Magistris (ITA) In the last few minutes of the B Group, Garance Rigaud from France had a chance to overtake team-mate Dora Tchakounte but a 7kg jump for her last attempt was too much. Adijat Olarinoye had two attempts to make ground on fellow Nigerian Rafiatu Lawal, who is in the top ten, but missed both. It looked as though Venegas might become the fourth bombout of the B session when, after being the only athlete to snatch 100kg, she failed with her first two clean and jerks on 122kg. Venegas, 24, made her final lift for 100-122-222, good enough for tenth place in the rankings. Nina Sterckx from Belgium, clearly upset after a rushed second snatch attempt in the A Group, dropped to 11th. Elliott, who competed at the Tokyo Olympic Games, has two routes to Paris. She can qualify via this 59kg category in which she made six from six and a 15kg improvement today, or possibly jump to 71kg where two other Australians are already going head to head, Sarah Cochrane and Jacqueline Nichele. Kiana Elliott (AUS) - Photo by Brian Oliver Mattie Sasser from the Marshall Islands, who lifted at Rio 2016, is in pole position for the 59kg continental place for Oceania with a best total of 214kg. Elliott moved within 6kg of that with 96-112-208 while Sasser did not take up her entry. “I decided to come down to 59 at last year’s Worlds,” said Elliott, 26, who has been competing internationally for 10 years, mostly in the 64kg and old 63kg categories. “I’ve done 220 at 71 (better than Cochrane and Nichele’s qualifying totals) but it’s a big jump back up, and I need to be making decisions yesterday, not next year. “The main reason for my confidence and performance today was that I had my personal coach, Martin Harlowe, looking after me in the back room. It’s been nine years since the last time he coached me at an international event and this is only the second time ever. “This is credit to Sam Coffa’s leadership and the new direction of the Australian Weightlifting Federation’s High Performance Commission, of which Paul and Lilly Coffa are at the forefront. For the first time in my 10-year career my voice as an athlete has been heard by the federation. “I’ve always said that I know I would perform my best with my preferred coach at international events. It’s good to see a positive change in Australian Weightlifting and I’m looking forward to the inevitable growth in the sport in Australia towards Brisbane 2032. “What I’m doing is pushing my own limits and seeing what it’s possible to achieve as an Australian athlete.” That means combining weightlifting with a job in forensic science administration, while the other athletes heading to Paris are full-time weightlifters. By Brian Oliver Photos by Giorgio

Doha, Day 4: Shi Zhiyong back after 862 days, while Latvian Suharevs and Colombian Mosquera move up Paris rankings

China’s double Olympic champion Shi Zhiyong is back on the international platform at last. For the first time in 862 days since he won gold in Tokyo, Shi returned to action at the IWF Grand Prix II in Doha, Qatar. He finished second to the improving European champion Ritvars Suharevs from Latvia despite declining his final two clean and jerks in the 73kg A Group. Shi will be seventh in the Paris rankings after making 160-180-340, while Suharevs’ six-from-six 156-185-341 will take him up to fifth. Shi Zhiyong (CHN) “It’s my first silver medal since 2012,” perennial winner Shi joked afterwards. When he learned how many days he had been away, he said, “It’s been a long, long journey. “I got injured at the Chinese National Games in 2021, a lower back injury, and I’ve been recovering ever since. I’ve always had a lower back injury. The snatch was OK, but clean and jerk still gives me pain. I wanted to make more attempts today but I couldn’t do it.” He was happy to be back with a total that is likely to be good enough for a place in the all-important top ten of the Paris rankings. There are two more chances to compete again in qualifying, at the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan in February and the IWF World Cup in Thailand in April, before China decides which athletes to send to the Olympic Games. Ritvars Suharevs (LAT) Suharevs has also had his problems. He had surgery on both shoulders after finishing sixth at the Tokyo Olympic Games and will have to have a third operation after Paris. As in Armenia, where he won the European title in April, Suharevs was full of praise for his support team comprising coach Eduard Andruskevics and physio Arnis Noveicuks. “They are the best team, they have given so much time to me,” said Suharevs, who has improved his best total by 22kg since the 2022 World Championships last December. “We just had a great training camp in Estonia and this was good today. I started lower in clean and jerk because I didn’t make one at the World Championships (in September). “I had to cut a lot of weight for the fifth time, from 76kg yesterday to 73. But I won’t be taking a rest now, I have to keep winning. I will be at the European Championships in February, I want to win that one again.” Weeraphon Wichuma (THA) Third placed Weeraphon Wichuma, the 19-year-old world champion from Thailand, won clean and jerk gold but made no gains in the rankings on 145-189-334, while fourth-placed Julio Mayora from Venezuela also failed to better his top qualifying total after two snatch failures in his 145-188-333. The Colombian Luis Javier Mosquera, another who had a long absence because of a shoulder injury, had good reason to be happier than many others. He lifted in the B Group and made 150-180-330, a 5kg improvement on his best qualifying effort and good enough for a snatch bronze. Mosquera, a silver medallist at 67kg in Tokyo, nearly missed the medal ceremony after getting stuck in traffic on the way back to the Aspire Zone but just got there in time. “I was happy with that, up five kilos,” he said. “I need more training because I haven’t been able to train properly until the past three months. I’m expecting better next year.” He will lift at the Pan American Championships in February. Doston Yokubov from Uzbekistan made five from six for 145-182-327, his best total at this weight after winning world and Asian titles at 67kg during recent years. Four men bombed out: Bernardin Kingue Matam from France, Tojo Adriatsitohaina from Madagascar, Bektimur Reyimov from Turkmenistan and the Chinese Taipei B group lifter Chuang Sheng-Min. Two athletes from Kiribati and Tuvalu did not take up their entries here, leaving Oceania without a single eligible athlete at 73kg. If all four other continental federations are represented in the top 10 by the end of qualifying, that could lead to reallocation of the continental slot at this weight. The non-Olympic men’s 67kg lost some lustre when China’s multiple champion and world record holder Chen Lijun withdrew. That left the way clear for Ri Won Ju to claim PRK’s fifth victory of the week. Ri Won Ju (PRK) Ri, 21, finished second to Chen at the Asian Games with a total of 321kg and could have won with 20kg less than that in Doha. He made all six lifts for 139-178-317, which left him way ahead of the only other man to hit the 300kg mark, Ivan Dimov from Bulgaria. Dimov was second in snatch and total on 140-160-300, and snatch winner Bunyad Rashimov from Turkmenistan was third on 141-157-298. Silver and bronze in clean and jerk when to Sairamkez Akmolda from Kazakhstan, fourth overall on 126-168-294, and seventh-placed Ishimbek Muratbek from Kyrgyzstan on 120-164-284. By Brian

Doha, Day 3: Two more wins for PRK, and progress in Paris rankings for Philippines, Malaysia and USA

Two more wins for DPR Korea, 11 different medallists in two events, an Olympic champion withdrawing when in the lead and a bombout by a multiple world record holder were among the highlights on day three of the IWF Grand Prix in Qatar. The C Group lifter Mohamad Aniq from Malaysia finished third in the men’s 61kg, in which five of the top 10 lifted yesterday in B and C sessions. John Ceniza from the Philippines was the only A Group lifter to make an improvement on his best total in the Paris 2024 rankings. John Ceniza (PHI) “I am really so happy with that, second place and two kilos more in qualifying,” said Ceniza, who is aiming to become the first male lifter from the Philippines to lift at the Olympic Games in decades. Pak Myong Jin from PRK was the only one of 23 athletes over two days to better 300kg on total. He made 134-171-305 to win ahead of Ceniza on 133-165-298. Aniq, third on 126-170-296, will be in the top ten when the rankings are updated. Pak Myong Jin (PRK) The gold and silver medallists in snatch failed to make a total. Olympic champion Li Fabin from China, who led at halfway on 137kg, withdrew with his left elbow heavily strapped. Eko Yuli Irawan, who bombed out in clean and jerk in the B Group, was second on 136kg, ahead of Pak. Pak won the clean and jerk, Aniq was second and the American teenager Hampton Morris, who also moved into the top ten, was third on 170kg. Morris, fifth on total on 292kg, was the only athlete from outside Asia in the top eight. Hampton Morris (USA) Ricko Saputra from Indonesia, who has lifted in all five qualifiers to date, failed three times in clean and jerk as he tried in vain to make ground on team-mate Irawan in the extended rankings. Another who failed to make a total was Trinh Van Vinh from Vietnam, who bombed out in the snatch. Aleksandra Grigoryan (ARM) The women’s 55kg featured a rare bombout by a world record holder and career-best totals for two teenagers who competed at the World Junior Championships less than three weeks ago. “There was no time to rest. When I got home I had to start training for this immediately,” said Aleksandra Grigoryan, who won at this weight in Guadalajara, Mexico on November 17. Grigoryan, 18, was delighted with her 81-108-189. It earned her third place behind Ri Su Yon from PRK, who made 94-116-210, and Surodchana Khambao from Thailand on 84-109-193. Ri’s team-mate Kang Hyon Gyong had claimed a sweep of world record at the Asian Games in September but this time she failed to snatch 95kg three times and did not make a total. Kang’s 122kg was best in clean and jerk. Annelien Vandenabeele from Belgium, who was sixth behind Grigoryan in Mexico, rounded off a very busy year by making 79-96-175 to improve her career-best total by 2kg. Vandenabeele, 19, has competed 15 times this year internationally and nationally, despite having bad luck with injury. Annelien Vandenabeele (BEL) She had a 32-hour journey home from Guadalajara because of flight delays, and headed to Qatar two weeks after her return. “I’m tired now but I needed these competitions,” she said. To get support from her National Olympic Committee she has had to show improvement this year. It was going well in the build-up to the European Championships, with 100kg clean and jerks in training, when Vandenabeele suffered an ear infection that eventually led to a burst eardrum, putting her out of action until July. Her coach Tom Goegebuer said, “We decided it was better to keep competing rather than just training, to improve a couple of kilos each time and rebuild confidence. It has worked.” Vandenebeele, who is studying chemical processing, is the niece of Goegebuer’s partner Bieke Vandenabeele. When, as a young girl, she saw them training at the gym she said, “Can I try that, I want to do it.” Now she trains six days a week. By Brian

Doha, Day 2: Jiang turns tables on PRK world record holder before heading to Paris with Team China

Jiang Huihua enjoyed singing her national anthem after making a career-best total in winning the women’s 49kg on day two of the IWF Grand Prix II in Doha. Nine weeks ago Jiang, who leads the Olympic rankings at this weight, had been beaten into second place by Ri Song Gum, who set two world records in her total of 216kg at the Asian Games in Hangzhou. That was the first of several victories for DPR Korea that led China’s head coach Wang Guoxin to declare: “We are no longer number one. Now PRK is ahead of us and we need to catch up.” Jiang Huihua (CHN) Jiang turned the tables on Ri at the Aspire Zone in Doha, making all six attempts for 96-120-216. Ri failed twice in clean and jerk and made 93-120-213, ahead of Jiang’s team-mate and Olympic champion Hou Zhihui on 96-113-209. “I was very excited to stand on the podium, to see our flag and sing our anthem,” said Jiang. “DPRK did perform very well at the Asian Games. Since then we have prepared really well, worked very hard and encouraged each other.” The next stop for Jiang and her team-mates, along with a large group of coaches and support staff, is Paris. Team China will fly direct from Doha to France for a week’s training camp and acclimatisation, which will include a visit to the Athletes Village for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in July-August. “I’m really looking forward to the training camp. I’ve never been to France and it will be good to see it and get used to the conditions,” she said. That seems sure to be the first of two visits for Jiang. Her place at the top of the rankings can realistically be challenged only by Hou, whose best total in qualifying is 5kg lower. PRK athletes are not eligible. Jiang, up 1kg on her best total, could have been overtaken if Hou or Ri had made world record attempts on 121kg and 124kg respectively, but both failed. Four others improved their best qualifying totals. Katherin Echandia from Venezuela was up 8kg in making 84-106-190. Rosegie Ramos from the Philippines was up by 3kg despite missing her last two lifts, on 88-103-191, a 21kg improvement on her 2022 World Championships total a year ago. Giulia Imperio from Italy made only her openers but 85-100-185 was a 2kg improvement, while Dahiana Ortiz from Dominican Republic is now only 1kg behind team-mate Beatriz Piron after her 82-108-190. Ri Song Gum (PRK) Jourdan Delacruz missed two snatch attempts and the USA coaching team decided it was best for her to withdraw from clean and jerk to save her legs. There were no medical concerns. Another PRK lifter was close to a world record. Won Hyon Sim got two white lights for her 86kg snatch attempt in the 45kg A Group, but the jury overturned it for bending and extending her arms. Won made 82-99-181 to finish clear of Rosegie’s sister Rose Jean Ramos, her only rival, on 70-85-155. The men’s 61kg B group featured two athletes who are hoping to be among the medal contenders in Paris, 34-year-old Eko Yuli Irawan from Indonesia, an Olympic medallist four times already, and the American teenager Hampton Morris. Eko Yuli Irawan (INA) Irawan will need recovery time after he ended a busy spell with his second successive bombout, having gone 17 years without one. He had icepacks on his knees at the end of the session. In the past seven months Irawan, 34, has won at the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia and the IWF Grand Prix I in Cuba, finished second at the World Championships, and bombed out at the Asian Games in China in September. This second straight failure came after he had snatched 136kg. Morris, second at 67kg at the World Junior Championships in Mexico 17 days ago, made two attempts to better the junior world record in clean and jerk. Although he failed both times on 174kg, and missed two snatches, his 122-170-292 moved him up into the top ten of the Paris rankings. Losing weight in a short time had not been a problem, said Morris, who has been making big numbers in training. “I was actually about 64kg in Mexico,” he said. “It was a very gradual calory deficit over a few weeks.” Thailand’s 2022 world champion at 55kg, Theeraphong Silachai, also opted to lift in the B Group, finishing well below his best on 123-155-278. Another disappointed athlete in this session was Muhamad Aznil from Malaysia, who bombed out in the snatch for a third time in his career. Aznil, twice a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, was 17th in the extended rankings (more than one athlete per nation) before today, two places and 1kg behind his team-mate Muhamad Aniq. While Aznil failed to make a total and stays on 290kg, Aniq hit career-best numbers in the preceding C Group on 126-170-296, outperforming everybody in the B Group and moving into seventh place before Wednesday’s A Group. The two “are good friends who push each other to do better,” said Malaysia’s coach Edmund Yeo. Malaysia has no other contenders for Paris. Aznil and Aniq will go to a training camp in either Indonesia or China for a month before a final head-to-head qualifying showdown at the IWF Grand Prix in Thailand in April. “We will then be preparing our back-up squad again, looking towards the next Commonwealth Games,” said Yeo.  By Brian

Doha, Day 1: Winning start for PRK, and a weight struggle for Madagascar’s medal hero

The DPR Korea team started with victory on the opening day of the IWF Grand Prix in Qatar, just as they had done at the Asian Games in China two months ago. Pang Un Chol won the men’s 55kg, the only medal event on day one at the Aspire Zone in Doha. It was his second international competition, more than four years after the first when he finished third at the Asian Junior Championships with a total of 241kg at this weight. Pang, 22, made all six lifts in his 116-152-268. His impressive total was only 1kg lower than Lai Gia Thanh from Vietnam made in winning the world title two months ago in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Pang finished a long way ahead of two men who made career-best numbers, Satrio Adi from Indonesia on 115-139-243 and Dilanka Yodage from Sri Lanka on 112-133-245. PRK was absent during the Covid pandemic, withdrew from the Tokyo Olympic Games, and did not return in any sport until the Asian Games in Hangzhou this year. PRK topped the medals table ahead of China there, and with a team of seven men and nine women in Doha, three of them world record holders, they have a chance of doing so again at the Grand Prix. The women’s 49kg A Group is not until Tuesday but already we have seen a double world champion, two continental champions, two Tokyo Olympians, and multiple age-group medallists in today’s B Group. Many of the athletes were moving up or down from non-Olympic categories to try for a good qualifying total, and only one did it, first-placed Pham Dinh Tri from Vietnam on 81-102-183. The first lift of the session was made by Thanyathon Sukcharoen from Thailand, who has twice won world titles at 45kg. She declined two snatch attempts and is clearly waiting for better fitness. Next out was Rosina Randafiarison, who was second at this year’s World Championships in Saudi Arabia, also at 45kg. That made her the first athlete in any Olympic sport to win a World Championships medal for Madagascar. Madagascar team of Rosina Randafarison with coach Eric Andriantsitohaina and his brother Tojo, who lifts on Wednesday The 10 per cent increase in body weight has caused problems for Randafiarison, 24. Although she weighed more here, her total was 15kg lower than her 170kg in Riyadh in September. “That wasn’t easy,” she said. “It’s difficult to move when you put on weight, your body doesn’t feel right. I eat more, sleep more, but when you feel full it’s like your body doesn’t want to move.” Her coach Eric Andriantsitohaina, whose brother Tojo competes here at 73kg, said, “We need a few more months but we hope to be ready for Paris.” There is a close contest between Randafiarison and the five-time Olympian Dika Toua for the continental place at 49kg. They both look certain to finish outside the top ten, below which only the highest-placed athlete from a continent not automatically qualified will go to Paris. Randfiarison has a best qualifying total of 170kg while Toua, from Papua New Guinea, has made 166kg. Fang Wan-Ling from Chinese Taipei tried to overtake team-mate Lin Cheng Jing in the extended ranking list when she went for a 12kg jump on her last clean and jerk. In a session that featured a lot of red lights, she missed it.  By Brian

Ningbo (CHN) will host the 2026 IWF World Championships  

The city of Ningbo, in China, will be the host of the 2026 edition of the IWF World Championships, after a vote by the IWF Executive Board, meeting today in Doha (QAT). This IWF showcase will be staged following the World Championships in 2024 in Manama (BRN) and the 2025 rendezvous in Forde (NOR).   Ningbo is located in the northeast province of Zhejiang, not far from the cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou. It has a population of over nine million citizens and has acquired recent successful experience in staging sports international events. The competition venue of the Championships will be the Ningbo Olympic Sports Centre, a facility constructed in 2019 and with a 10,000-seat capacity. Moreover, all the proposed hotels to host the participants in the competition will be within a 30-minute distance by car from the venue.   The IWF Executive Board also awarded two other important competitions, both to be held in 2025: the IWF World Youth Championships will take place in Lima (PER), while the IWF World Junior Championships were given to the city Tashkent (UZB).   The allocation of these important IWF rendezvous was the highlight of the meeting, which also approved the provisional budget of the international federation for 2024, the revalidation of the IWF Refugee Team programme for next year, and the creation of the Weightlifting World Day, to be annually celebrated on October 16, the date in which the IOC decided in 2023 to reinstate the sport in the programme of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games. IWF Executive Board members   “We have shown once more our unity and co-operation while taking important decisions for the future of the IWF. Our events are now increasing in quality and in exposure, and this shows a positive evolution of our sport around the globe,” considered the IWF President Mohammed Jalood. “The most recent example is here in Qatar. With almost 400 lifters from 100 countries, we will have a great competition during the next 10 days. I am sure that many outstanding performances will be set in Doha, as this is an important Olympic qualification event. We all feel at home in Qatar and the hospitality of our hosts is really amazing,” concluded Mr Jalood.   This Monday, December 4, kicks off the IWF Grand Prix II in Doha, the vibrant capital of Qatar, the last IWF event of the year, gathering some of the best lifters of the planet, still aiming at getting their ticket for the 2024 Paris Games. IWF