From Sept. 4-17, 2023, the International Weightlifting Federation‘s (IWF) World Weightlifting Championships begin in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This competition is more than just another exhibition of world-class weightlifting; it marks the first mandatory international event in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualification cycle.
As such, the lifting in Riyadh is expected to be explosive. With less than a year remaining until the commencement of the 2024 Paris Games, aspiring Olympians have only a few chances left to ink their names at the top of the IWF’s qualification leaderboard. You can expect them to seize that opportunity in Riyadh.
From old favorites to some promising newcomers and entire countries worth of athletes who haven’t competed in years, the 2023 WWC boasts one of the strongest single-competition rosters in modern history. Below are who to keep an eye on when the competition begins,
2023 World Weightlifting Championships | Athletes To Watch
Here are a few competitors, weight categories, and teams expected to do big things in Riyadh. The IWF has restricted access to its final entry list on its website, but you can check out the list of preliminary entrants for a more comprehensive picture of the roster in each category.
Ritvars Suharevs (M73KG, LAT)
Latvia’s Suharevs is one of the youngest veteran competitors in the European circuit, having competed in IWF-sanctioned events as a youth as early as 2012. Flash forward 11 years, and Mr. Suharevs has locked in more than a handful of impressive performances, including a win at the 2019 Junior WWC and sixth place at the 2020 Olympics.
Post-Tokyo, Suharevs underwent dual shoulder surgery, which sidelined him from international competition early into the Paris qualification cycle. He’s rapidly making up for lost time, though: After placing 14th at the 2022 WWC, Suharevs locked in a stellar result at this year’s European Weightlifting Championships, where he won the overall gold medal in the highly competitive 73-kilogram category. Suharevs has momentum on his side; all he needs to do is carry it forward.
Varazdat Lalayan (M+109KG, ARM)
As the saying goes, ‘if you come for the king, you’d best not miss.’ Armenia’s premiere superheavyweight, Varazdat Lalayan, has attempted to dethrone Georgia’s Lasha Talakhadze in the 109-kilogram division twice in a year’s time. He’s failed twice — Talakhadze is, indisputably, the strongest competitive weightlifter in history.
However, the two-time Olympic Champion’s reign may be coming to an end at Lalayan’s hands. Ever since Talakhadze put his weight class in a stranglehold in roughly 2016, no athlete has come close to unseating him. But Lalayan has inched ever closer. His last handful of competitive appearances all resulted in handily winning a silver medal while increasing his Total in the process.
At last year’s Worlds, Lalayan set a career best of 462 kilograms and pushed Talakhadze, who was recovering from an injury at the time, to the brink. With the highest entry Total of the 2023 WWC, Talakhadze is expected to win his seventh World title — but Lalayan will make him fight tooth and nail for it.
Lasha Talakhadze (M+109KG, GEO)
In the modern history of weightlifting, no human has lifted more weight over their head than the +109-kilogram Georgian titan Lasha Talakhadze. Since his first Olympic gold medal at Rio in 2016, Talakhadze has been the frontiersman of the sport, pushing the boundaries of what was considered possible on the weightlifting platform.
Fans of the sport have long expected Talakhadze, who has a career-best Total of 492 kilograms from the 2021 WWC, would be the first (and perhaps only) man to crack the mythical 500-kilogram Total barrier. However, Talakhadze injured his thigh in the summer of 2022, derailing his pursuit.
He’s still undefeated internationally since 2012 but has yet to break back into 490-and-beyond territory on an IWF stage. With athletes like Varazdat Lalayan closing in on the top of his podium, it’s now or never for Talakhadze.
The middle-heavyweight female divisions have long been among the sport’s most competitive categories, a trend that has continued in the Women’s 71s since the class was minted in 2018. Flash forward five years, and the 71-kilogram class is leading the charge for women weightlifters. This year’s WWC will host some of the most impressive performers across all classes and genders.
The proof is in the pudding: The snatch and Total world records were both broken this summer by Ecuador’s Angie Palacios Dajomes (121 kilograms) and China’s Liao Guifang (268 kilograms). In fact, Dajomes took the snatch record from Guifang, who lifted 120 just a few months prior.
Also in attendance are 2022 World Champion Loredana Toma, Tokyo silver medalist Kate Vibert, and a relatively unknown North Korean weightlifter named Song Kuk Hyang, who hasn’t competed internationally in four years’ time, and who has the second-highest entry Total in the class (260 kilos). At this point, every slot on the podium is up for grabs.
Antonino Pizzolato (M89KG, ITA)
When Italy’s Antonino Pizzolato set a 217-kilogram clean & jerk and 392-kilogram Total world record at the 2022 European Championships, it was something of a watershed moment. At the time, the hypothetical world standard benchmarks in the 89-kilogram class had been unbroken for nearly four years.
Enter Pizzolato, who planted the first flag in the division shortly after it had been named a competitive category for Paris 2024. Since then, Pizzolato has abstained from international competition and lost both of his world records as well several times over.
Most recently, China’s Li Dayin secured both at the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships. Dayin will also attend this year’s Worlds. The burden is on Pizzolato’s shoulders to reclaim his place in the record books, but history has shown he has what it takes; he’s got a ten-kilogram margin on Dayin in the entry Total.
Hampton Morris (M61KG, USA)
19-year-old Hampton Morris is the most promising male athlete the USA has had in a long time. Morris, who has repeatedly set and reset the senior American Records as a Junior athlete, is an international powerhouse. He’s got Youth and Junior World titles to his name and most recently won a silver medal at the 2023 IWF Grand Prix I.
[Related: How To Properly Do the Clean]
Morris is also known for setting some impressive unofficial world records in training, including a 179-kilogram unofficial clean & jerk record (China’s Li Fabin owns it officially at 175) from July. If Morris can muster his strength on the platform when it matters, he’s a serious contender for gold in the clean & jerk.
Kamila Konotop (W59KG, UKR)
It’s easy to be enamored by the stars of weightlifting — athletes who have already ascended to the top of the sport and who continue to define strong. But rising stars like Ukraine’s Kamila Konotop deserve just as much attention, especially since she’s still soaring and shows no signs of slowing down.
So far, Konotop has flown under the radar internationally. She’s quietly won a slew of titles in Europe, including the 59-kilogram Senior title in 2023. Her rapid progress in the Total is the most compelling, though.
At 20 years of age, Konotop placed fifth in the Tokyo Olympics with a 206-kilogram Total. To win Euros this year, she comfortably Totaled 235. Her ascent is one of the fastest in weightlifting right now, and she’s well within striking distance of the World podium this year.
Team North Korea
The People’s Republic of Korea (PRK) last appeared at a World Championships in 2019. Despite scrutiny for balking at international drug testing protocols set forth by the IWF, North Korea has submitted a roster for this year’s Worlds and, by the looks of things, are intending to make a statement.
PRK weightlifters rank in the top three entry Totals in six weight classes this year. And despite a multi-year hiatus from some of the biggest weightlifting events in the world, North Korean weightlifters currently hold five Senior world records. Their presence may be controversial, but their strength is undeniable.
2023 World Weightlifting Championships | Session Schedule
Here’s a full breakdown of the schedule for every A-Group session at the 2023 WWC. All times are listed in Eastern Standard Time (EST).
- 45KG: Sep. 4, 12:00 p.m.
- 49KG: Sep. 5, 9:30 a.m.
- 55KG: Sep. 6, 12:00 p.m.
- 59KG: Sep. 8, 12:00 p.m.
- 64KG: Sep. 10, 12:00 p.m.
- 71KG: Sep. 13, 12:00 p.m.
- 76KG: Sep. 14, 9:30 a.m.
- 81KG: Sep. 15, 9:30 a.m.
- 87KG: Sep. 15, 12:00 p.m.
- +87KG: Sep. 16, 9:30 a.m.
- 55KG: Sep. 5, 12:00 p.m.
- 61KG: Sep. 6, 9:30 a.m.
- 67KG: Sep. 7, 12:00 p.m.
- 73KG: Sep. 9, 12:00 p.m.
- 81KG: Sep. 11, 9:30 a.m.
- 89KG: Sep. 11, 12:00 p.m.
- 96KG: Sep. 13, 9:30 a.m.
- 102KG: Sep. 14, 12:00 p.m.
- 109KG: Sep. 16, 12:00 p.m.
- +109KG: Sep. 17, 9:30 a.m.
More Weightlifting Content
- 2024 USA Weightlifting North American Open Series I To Be Held at Arnold Sports Festival
- World Champion Weightlifter Tian Tao’s Power Clean Tutorial
- World Champion Weightlifter Kate Vibert Used Blood Flow Restriction To Set 190-Kilogram Squat Record
Featured image: William Johnson / @barbellstories on Instagram