Olympic Weightlifting Entry List Released, But Who Will Win in Rio?

This morning the IWF released the preliminary start list for Weightlifting at the 2016 Olympic Games. As is customary for international competitions, 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. The Olympics are no different in this regard; in 2012 Russia withdrew Dimitry Klokov, Khadzhimurat Akkaev and Oxana Slivenko due to various injuries. All three were medal favorites going into the competition. We still have almost three weeks until announcer Richard Mason calls the first snatch attempt, but until then; here are some storylines to think about as we get closer.

Athlete Breakdown

The IWF provided a convenient breakout of the countries being represented by gender. A total of 260 athletes from 91 countries are entered into these games. The 156 men and 104 women represent an even 60/40 division of the sexes.

China has the largest team with 10 athletes going to compete. Forty countries have entered 1 solo athlete.

The youngest athlete entered is Bouchra Fatima Zohra Hirech, in the Woman’s 75+ KG category; her date of birth is August 22, 2000. Based on weightlifting years, she is 16 years of age; however, her actually birthday will take place after the Olympic Games finish.

The oldest athlete entered is Maria Alexandra Escobar Guerrero, in the Woman’s 58 KG category; her date of birth is July 17, 1980. Based on weightlifting years, she is 36 years of age.

The largest category is the men’s 85KG weight class where 25 men have been entered. The smallest weight class is woman’s 53KG weight class where 10 women have been entered.

Are the Russians Still Entered?

As of this entry list Russia, is still entered with 8 athletes, who all have won medals in recent World Championships. The last Russian Weightlifter to win a gold medal in the Olympics was Dimitri Berestov in 2004. Assuming the World Anti-Doping Agency is not successful in banning the Russian team, the athlete with the best bet to end the drought is 2015 Arnold Champion Tatiana Kashirina. Since winning a silver medal in the 2012 Olympic Games, she has won 3 World Championships, 2 European Championships, and every Arnold Weightlifting Championships that she entered (just one, but still noteworthy).

How Does the American Team Look?

The American team, on paper, looks very good. The best chances for a medal have to be Jenny Arthur in the 75 KG and Sarah Robles in the 75+ KG categories. At the 2015 World Championships, Arthur placed 7th behind 3 athletes from Russia, Kazakhstan, and China, none of whom are on the entry list. Robles placed 6th behind 3 athletes from China, Kazakhstan, and Thailand, none of whom are not on the entry list as well.

Based on the start list, Arthur and Robles look poised to have the best place finishes of any American weightlifter since Melanie Roach placed 6th at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Kendrick Farris will be looking to improve on his 10th place finish at the London Olympic Games in a very deep and competitive 94KG category.  

Morghan King will be one of 15 athletes in the 48KG category as she makes her Olympic debut in Rio.

Where Is Ilya Ilyin?

As reported in June, Ilya Illn has tested positive for a doping violation from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games and is ineligible to compete in Rio. This would make the favorite in the 105 KG category Ruslan Nurudinov of Uzbekistan. He is the 2013 World Champion and 2014 runner-up behind Ilyin. In 2015 he had knee surgery, however he looked very strong at the 2016 Asian Championships when we last saw him compete, and on paper appears to be the favorite. While we will not see a rematch of Ilyin and Nurudinov this summer, it would be great to see a friendly competition this fall at Dimitry Klokov’s 2nd “Power Weekend” event in Moscow.

Can Lu Xiaojun Repeat as Olympic Champion?

Easily the most dominant performance of the 2012 Olympic Games was from Lu Xiaojun, as he won the gold medal by 19 kilos over his teammate the silver medalist. He followed that with a 2013 World Championship in Poland where he set World Records in the snatch and total. However he failed to make a clean & jerk in the 2015 World Championships and was one of several Chinese athletes to not post a total in that competition, which is unusual for a great team such as China. Hopefully the Lu of 2012 and 2013 glory will make his way to the platform in Rio and (most likely) end his career on a high note. If 2015 Lu is present, waiting in the wings is 2015 World Champion Nijat Rahimov of Kazakhstan ready to win a gold medal.

Will the Superheavyweights Be Exciting?

Yes! This looks to be the most exciting category in the competition as everyone who is anyone is entered, 23 men in all. The A session will be on Tuesday, August 16th at 7PM local time (6PM EST / 3PM PST) and this is a must watch for any weightlifting fan. Check out these names:

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

And 17 other men who will total in the neighborhood of 400KG (880lbs) or more.

Regardless of what happens in the next 16 days, the Olympics 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 we hope there are many records set – Personal, World, and Olympic.

Featured Image: World Weightlifting YouTube

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