2018 Weightlifting World Championships Preview: What You Need to Know

Earlier this week, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) published the preliminary start list for the 2018 Weightlifting World Championships. This year the competition is scheduled for November 1st – 10th in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. I say preliminary simply because something always changes between the preliminary start list and the final start list at the technical meeting for all weightlifting meets.

This will be the first World Championships since 2015 where there will be no team penalties in place. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Russia was banned from competing due to 7 confirmed Adverse Analytic Findings from reanalysis of drug testing from the Beijing and London Olympic Games. 

At the 2017 World Championships in Anaheim, California, the IWF upheld bans for 9 countries that also had multiple positive re-tests. IWF rules state that any country that had three positive tests uncovered by the International Olympic Committee during re-testing of stored urine samples for banned substances from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics would be banned. This meant that in addition to Russia, the competition did not include athletes from China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Turkey, Moldova, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

The 2017 Championships also did not have perennial competitor North Korea; as well as Cuba and Venezuela did not compete as well. All three federations withdrew their teams from the competition.

Athlete Breakdown

A total of 686 athletes representing 88 countries are entered into the competition. The 365 men and 321 women represent a 53/47 percentage division.

The youngest athletes entered are Hamad Mahkoom Theyab Rashed Albreiki from the UAE in the men’s 81KG weight class, and Thi Thu Trang Nguyen of Vietnam in the woman’s 45KG weight class. Both were born in 2003, and are considered 15 years old based on weightlifting classification. 

The oldest female competitor is Oliba Seledina Nieve Arroyo from Ecuador who was born in 1977. The oldest male competitor is Greg Shushu Otsile from South Africa who was born in 1980.

Which weight classes will be used?

This is the first World Championships that will utilize the new bodyweight categories that the IWF approved of earlier this year. There are 10 categories for men and 10 categories for Women, and all will be contested at the 2018 World Championships. However in the Olympics, which are less than 2 years away, only 7 categories will be contested. As you can see in the chart below, the 6 categories that will not be in the Olympics – Women’s 45KG, 71KG, 81KG Men’s 55KG, 89KG, 102KG – have the lowest amount of athletes entered. While these entries can probably change, the safe assumption is that many athletes have the 2020 Olympic Games as a goal and will gravitate towards a weight class that will be in the Olympic Games.

How does the American team look?

In a word, competitive. As stated before, there will be more depth this year with the inclusion of the 12 countries who did not compete in Anaheim last year. That certainly helped the American team win medals. This year several Americans have the potential to be in the A session of their weight classes and have a fighting chance to be on the medal podium.

It starts with the defending World Champion Sarah Robles, who has the 5th highest entry total in the woman’s superheavyweight category. Mattie Rogers has the 7th highest entry total and Meredith Alwine the 10th highest entry at 71KG, respectively. Jenny Arthur has the 8th highest entry total at 76KG, Alyssa Ritchey has the 12th highest entry total in the 49KG category, Jessica Lucero has the 15th highest entry total in the 59KG category, and Mattie Sasser has the 15th highest entry total in the 64KG category. All of these competitors have a great chance to compete in the A session of their respective weight classes.

On the men’s side, CJ Cummings has the 13th highest entry total in the 73KG category, while Harrison Maurus has the 16th highest entry at 81KG and D’Angelo Osorio has the 14th highest entry total at 102KG. (Osorio is an alternate on the team.) Depending how the final entry list turns out, these three ay have the best chance for Team USA to compete in the A session.

The full American Team roster can he found here.

Familiar faces on different teams

There are three women competing at the World Championships who have trained primarily in the United States over the past year. Team Lebanon’s Hala Mahassen Fattouh is entered with a 205KG entry total in the 64KG category. She trains in Beaufort, South Carolina with Coach Ray Jones of Team Divergent. Earlier this year she became the first women in the history of Lebanon to win an international medal when she won a silver medal at the Mediterranean Games.

Team South Africa’s Mona Pretorius is also entered in the 64KG category with a 200KG entry total. She has spent most of the last several years living and working in Texas, training under Coach Dutch Lowy of Black Box Strength & Conditioning. Earlier this year she won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games for her home country.

Team Tonga’s Kuinini Manumua is entered in the 87+ KG category with a 231KG entry total. She is a youth athlete, who has only been competing for four years. She has trained with the Hassle Free BBC at Lincoln High School under the coaching of Kevin Doherty and Ben Hwa. She has dual citizenship with the USA, and placed 2nd at the 2017 Pan American Youth Championships and won a bronze medal at the 2017 Youth World Championships.

Team Brazil’s Fernando Reis is entered in the men’s Superheavyweight category with a 440KG entry total. He is a 5X Pan American Champion, and placed 6th overall at last year’s World Championships. He has spent much of the last year living and working in Miami, Florida, training and coaching at Ferrino Sports and Fitness Club. This year he won the 2018 Arnold Weightlifting Championships with a 434KG total.

Is the Russian Team Competing?

Yes, the Russian team is competing. Some of the athletes we remember from before the penalties are on the start list. These include 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist and 4X World Champion Tatiana Kashirina and 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist and 2X World Champion Ruslan Albegov. However, there are a lot of new names and faces on the start list many of the established names are serving suspensions or have retired from the sport. So the expectation going into the competition is that Russia will have individual success with winning medals, but overall their team is not as strong as in the past.

Is Kazakhstan’s Ilya Ilyin Competing?

As of the most recent start list, Ilya Ilyin is competing in the 102KG category, where he has the second highest entry total. After the drug testing re-analysis, Ilyin lost his Gold Medals from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games due to testing positive. However he received a two year suspension from the sport, instead of four or more years, because the re-analysis was considered as a whole to be one singular offense. He became eligible to compete earlier this year when his suspension finished. He totaled 380KG at the 2018 Kazakhstan National Championships in September where he competed in the 102KG category, but at the time he said his long-term plans were to compete in the 96KG category.

Seeing Ilyin in the 102KG category on the start list would make sense to me for two reasons:

  1. 102KG has considerably less depth than the 96KG category
  2. Ilyin is undefeated in international competition throughout his career

I believe his legacy is important to him. If for any reason he is not physically ready to be a force in the 96KG category at this competition, his odds to win the 102KG category are still very good. It will not be easy to win any weight class in the competition, however if he chooses to compete 102KG in Ashgabat he still has a lot of time after the 2018 World Championships to make a run as a 96KG athlete.

Will the superheavyweights be exciting?

Yes! On the men’s side especially, this looks to be among the most exciting categories in the competition. The A session will be on Saturday, November 10th at 5:30PM local time (9:30AM EST / 6:30AM PST) and this is a must watch for any weightlifting fan. Check out these names:

  • Lasha Talakhadze (Georgia, 2016 Olympic Champion, 2X World Champion)
  • Ruslan Albegov (Russia, 2013 & 2014 World Champion, 2012 Bronze Medalist)
  • Fernando Reis (Brazil, 5X Pan American Champion)
  • Mart Seim (Estonia, 2015 World Championships Silver Medalist)
  • Gor Minasyan (Armenia, 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist)

In total, 18 men have entry totals of 400KG (880lbs) or more, including Team USA’s Caine Wilkes who totaled 402KG at the 2018 Pan Am Championships.

Regardless of between now and the end of the competition, the World Championships will be a great show and I hope all the athletes lift to their abilities. They have worked tirelessly for a lifetime to step on that platform and I hope there are many records set – Personal, Country, and World.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image: @iwfnet on Instagram