This Country Just Voted Weightlifters As Athlete of the Year

It’s always nice to see the sport of Olympic weightlifting being celebrated on a national level, and after Lasha Talakhadze delivered one of the greatest weightlifting performances of all time in Rio, his home country of Georgia has named him as the nation’s Athlete of the Year.

In the United States, weightlifting’s popularity pales in comparison to sports like football and baseball, but in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, strength sports are enjoying a tremendous level of public support.

The Georgian government recently made that clear by naming celebrated weightlifters Lasha Talakhadze and Anastasia Hotfrid as the nation’s Athlete of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year, respectively. Hotfrid took home a silver medal in the 75+kg category of the 2016 Junior World Championships.

But Lasha Talakhadze had a year that changed the sport itself. In 2016, he won a Gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games in the 105kg+ category when he completed an astonishing 258kg clean and jerk. (That’s 568.8 pounds.) During the same competition, Talakhadze temporarily held a world record with a 215kg snatch, until Iran’s Behdad Salimi bested it with a 216kg lift. At the end of the day, Talakhadze’s 473kg total was a new world record.

“This means a lot to me,” Talakhadze said of his award. “2016 was the best period of my career, but that does not mean anything. I have to keep working with the same passion as before and I hope to be in a great shape, come 2017. This would not be possible without assistance from my coaches, without love from my friends and of course, my family. This is dedicated to all of you. Let the peace prevail in your life.”

The Head Coach of the Georgian weightlifting National Team, Giorgi Asanidze, was also named Coach of the Year. Asanidze himself has won the Athlete of the Year award numerous times, and won a gold medal in weightlifting at the 2004 Olympics.

It’s encouraging to see Olympic weightlifters receive such positive recognition from their government, and we hope to see similar trends in more countries worldwide.

Featured image via @talaxadzelasha on Instagram.