It’s an exciting time to be a follower of the international weightlifting scene as fans turn their attentions to the fast-approaching 2019 World Weightlifting Championships. The show of power takes place in Pattaya, Thailand between 18 and 27 September and you can follow live updates on a number of TV stations, mobile apps and even keep pace with the results on the BBC site.
The competition features both men and women competitors and is split into several weight categories, ranging from the lightest at 55kg through to the heaviest at 109kg and above. The women’s game is between 45kg and 87kg. Contenders will take part in the snatch and then clean and jerk before being handed an outright score.
The World Championships has the attention of the sport’s lovers, but it will also attract healthy interest from casuals who will be desperate to see the best in the business line-up.
China the Number One Ranked Nation
The World Weightlifting Championship last took place at Ashgabat in Turkmenistan in 2018 and that was the first outing since the IWF altered their weight classes and scrapped all world records. A clean slate for the sport in an attempt to attract a bigger audience and it’ll be interesting to see if those changes have had the desired effect this summer.
China topped the medals charts last year, pulling in a haul of seven golds, eight silvers and four bronze. That placed them ahead of runner-up Thailand on three golds and three bronze medals, with Iran completing the podium places, thanks to two goals and a single bronze.
The record books also make for interesting reading and we note that China has won more medals than any other nation heading into this renewal. They top the all-time medal table with 172 golds, 82 silvers and 41 bronze, giving a total of 295. That has them ahead of the Soviet Union who gathered 151 golds, 90 silver and 33 bronze for 274. In third place since the start of the weightlifting world championships sits Bulgaria on 79 gold, 82 silver and 63 bronze for 224.
Alekseyev Head and Shoulders Above the Competition
Great Britain is ranked 25th overall and their tally shows the team have been responsible for five gold medals over the years, as well as three silvers and a healthy nine bronze. That places them just behind the likes of France, Belarus, Ukraine and Romania, but ahead of Georgia, East Germany, Colombia, Switzerland and Finland.
The man to have won most gold medals over the years is Vasily Alekseyev from the Soviet Union who campaigned in the +110kg category between 1970 and 1977. During his time, he bagged an astonishing eight gold medals, never-ending in second or third place. He will be remembered as an all-time great and legend of the sport of weightlifting.
Vasily Alekseyev’s main contender for top spot was Bulgaria’s Naim Suleymanoglu who won seven gold medals and one silver medal, achieved between 1983 and 1995 when competing for Bulgaria and Turkey in the 56kg, 60kg and 64kg categories. He’s joined by Yurik Verdanyan of the Soviet Union – also seven golds and a silver – achieved between 1977 and 1985 in the 75kg, 82.5kg and 90kg weight divisions.
Russian Doping Scandal Continues to Make Headlines
The sport of weightlifting has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons during the build-up to this competition and that’s something that would have pained organisers. The talk should focus on the treats we have in store, but instead, Russia’s doping scandal has dominated with no less than seven Russian weightlifters suspended for doping violations, some even stripped of Olympic medals as a result of the findings.
It doesn’t look like the embarrassment for Russia sports will go away any time soon, either, with Maxim Agapitov, who is the president of the Russian Weightlifting Federation, telling members of the worldwide media that there are no certainties more won’t be banned in the weeks and months to come. A dark cloud is hanging over the sport of weightlifting and it’s one, similar to cycling, that will take some time to shift.
The best and quickest way to emerge back into the light is for us to enjoy a thrilling and, above all else, clean World Championships in Thailand. If there are any doping allegations made at this tournament and it appears in the global press that would be another nail in the coffin for those working tirelessly behind the scenes to give supporters something to be proud of. We watch on with our fingers crossed this one passes without any bumps.
Ireland Sent a Team of Four
It may have flown under the radar somewhat, due to the bigger stories breaking in recent weeks, but Ireland send a team of four lifters to the World Championships and they will be keen to do more than just compete. It’s great for the nation to be represented on the big stage and they will be a welcome addition, but Sean Brown, Katey Byrd, Seamus O’Conchubhair and Sean Rigsby will be going all out to put Ireland on the map and make a name for themselves in the sport.
Sean Brown boards the team plane ranked as his nation’s number one lifter and he’ll want to prove he is also good enough to mix it with the best of the best on the circuit. He will be competing in the 81kg category in Thailand and does so with confidence on side, having bagged Irish records at 81kg and 89kg during his career. He also set the Irish record for the snatch and clean and jerk categories at 81kg.
Confidence is high but he will find out the competition in Pattaya is much tougher than he is used to, and a personal best will be needed if he is to stand and a chance of worrying the main players in his division. The bare stats alone suggest Brown won’t land a glove on the top names, but anything is possible when we get down to business.