Weightlifting happens fast. Often, the most significant moments in the sport are measured in milliseconds rather than minutes. That said, a lot goes beyond the competition platform that shapes the sport’s future as well.
From bureaucratic reforms to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it (seriously) World Records, 2022 was ablaze with moments in Olympic lifting that shifted the status quo, sharpened the future, or were just plain awesome to watch.
Here are some of the weightlifting moments that struck a chord in 2022:
Best Weightlifting Moments 2022
- IWF Presidential & Executive Elections
- Antonino Pizzolato at the European Championships
- Women’s 59-Kilogram at the World Championships
- A New Competition Format for USA Weightlifting
- IWF Athletes’ Commission Elections
“There is a renewed energy within our organization…” is how newly-elected IWF President Mohammed Jalood described the atmosphere at the top of weightlifting’s bureaucracy when it announced a change in leadership in June 2022.
Jalood assumed the mantle of President alongside a new and markedly diverse Executive Board, with over two-thirds of its titles changing hands. Women were also appointed to key roles “well above” the minimum quota.
The IWF has long faced accusations of corruption amid their rampant mishandling of finances and leniency regarding illicit performance-enhancing drug use. These scandals, buoyed largely by the publication of a scathing report in 2020, have placed weightlifting on a stay of execution for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
It remains to be seen what, if any, tangible effect the shake-up at the IWF will have on the sport’s Olympic standing, but early progress is encouraging. The 2022 WWC is the largest international event in the sport’s history, and the Executive Board is in the process of approving scholarships to financially-burdened competitors, per reporting by Insidethegames.
The Italian weightlifting team has come into its own over the past few years, particularly throughout 2022 in the European circuit. Nowhere was that advancement more evident than during the 2022 European Weightlifting Championships, thanks to the efforts of 89-kilogram Antonino “Nino” Pizzolato.
En route to his third European win (2019, 2021), Pizzolato claimed two distinct records; inaugural World Records in the clean & jerk and Total of the 89-kilogram class.
Although the 89s were ratified by the IWF back in 2018, the class was considered historically uncompetitive as it was not recognized for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The World Standards — placeholder records established by the IWF — went unclaimed for nearly four full years as a result.
When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved the 89-kilogram class as an upcoming event in Paris 2024, Pizzolato made the first move. His 217-kilogram clean & jerk and 392-kilogram Total were new personal records for the Italian, but they also set the tone and signaled that the 89s were likely to be a hotbed of record-setting battles until Paris.
In December, 18-year-old, 89-kilo Bulgarian weightlifter Karlos Nasar clean & jerked 220 kilograms at the 2022 World Weightlifting Championships (WWC) in Colombia, stealing the short-lived record from Pizzolato, who wasn’t able to attend due to injury.
To see such a massive record set and then reset in half a year speaks to the ferocity with which 89-kilogram weightlifters like Pizzolato will battle in Paris.
For the last four years, the winner of the gold medal in the Women’s 59-kilogram class has been all but a foregone conclusion. Kuo Hsing-Chun of Taiwan has won the World Weightlifting Championships every consecutive year since 2017 (also winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics along the way).
Unfortunately, Hsing-Chun’s armor cracked when she suffered a knee injury during her session at the 2022 WWC in Bogotá, Colombia. A thunderous upset followed as the athletes — who usually trail Hsing-Chun — saw an opportunity to stand atop the 59-kilogram podium.
Several weightlifters, including Luo Shifang and Luo Xiaomin from China, and 2020 Olympic Champion Maude Charron, attempted to steal the title throughout the clean & jerks. Still, hometown hero Yenny Alvarez Caicedo ultimately ended Hsing-Chun’s reign.
The stadium seating thrummed under the weight of hundreds of adoring Colombian locals as Alvarez took to the stage for her final attempt. Bolstered, Alvarez sent a new personal record clean & jerk of 133 kilograms soaring overhead on her final attempt to win the 59-kilogram class outright after failing to secure a medal in the snatch.
Draped in the Colombian flag, the first-time World Champion stood at the top of the podium (alongside Hsing-Chun, who placed second), absolutely beaming.
Historically speaking, weightlifting is a relatively static sport. The clean & press was stricken from weightlifting competitions in 1972, paving the way for the classic “Olympic Biathlon” that defines modern-day weightlifting. Post-’72, many of the most significant shakeups to the sport have involved adjustments to its weight categories.
The redesign of the competition floor, which USAW debuted during their 2022 National Championships Week, gave the audience a naked look at how high-level weightlifters prepare for each of their six attempts. The rollout of the new format was met with praise and derision; some sang USAW’s praises for an effort to push the sport forward in a viewer-friendly manner, while others considered it needlessly disruptive for the coaches and athletes.
Regardless, it was a bold move on USAW’s part to flip the script on the organization of a high-level weightlifting meet. With some iteration and further testing, the show-it-all format may be a big hit in the near future.
The IWF has long faced scrutiny regarding corruption and mismanagement of athlete interests. As part of more significant reform efforts in 2022, the organization published the results of its Athletes’ Commission elections in December.
In a move to shape an “athlete-centered future,” the IWF appointed 10 weightlifters from across the globe to the Commission to favorably influence the organization’s governance concerning athlete well-being.
These 10 weightlifters, which include historic achievers like Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines and Qatar’s Fares Ibrahim El-Bakh, will assist in guiding the IWF toward higher standards of equity, opportunity, and parity. Several Commission members will receive seats on the IWF Executive Board and voting rights in their Congress, which will hopefully afford the lifters themselves more say over their future in the sport.
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Olympic lifting. With only a year and some change since the fireworks of the Tokyo Olympics, the sport is again commencing another qualification cycle.
Paris 2024 is less than two years away. The sport may undergo further evolutions in that time. Still, one thing is certain: all eyes will remain on the athletes themselves as they compete for the opportunity to appear at the most prestigious event in international sport.
Featured Image: William Johnson / BarbellStories