The 2016 Rio Olympics are less than a week away, and with recent doping suspensions, the weightlifting field seems more wide open than in any recent Olympic cycle. Below are my predictions for the medals, based on the start list that was published on July 21st. At this time, it has not been announced what athletes have been nominated by their home countries to take the place of the Russian team, who were been banned from competing in weightlifting at the Olympic Games.
1. Zhihui Hou, China
2. Thi Huyen Vuong, Vietnam
3. Hiromi Miyake, Japan
Hou, who has not competed since the 2015 President’s Cup in China, is my favorite here because at that competition she totaled 211 weighing 49KG. She was not entered into the 2015 World Championships, however I have to assume she will be healthy and ready to compete in Rio. Vuong and Miyake placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in Houston. This will be the 4th Olympic Games for Miyake; she won the silver medal back in London at the 2012 Games.
Dark Horse – Watch out for Margarita Yelisseyeva of Kazakhstan. She placed 6th in Houston at the World Championships in the 53KG category with a 202 total. If she is able to retain her strength and drop a weight class, she is a legitimate challenger for a medal.
American Presence – Morgan King has looked very good all year. In Salt Lake City at the Olympic Trials, she totaled 180KG to claim her spot on the team. And she has been training the last month in Arizona with her coach Dean Kruse and 1999 World Champion Shahin Nasirinia. Realistically she has a great chance to break Tara Nott’s records in this category, which were set back in 2000. She would need 83 in the snatch and 103 in the Clean and Jerk, which is 3 kilos more in each lift than she did at the Olympic Trials.
1. Shu- Ching Hsu, Taipei
2. Yajun Li, China
3. Hidilyn Diaz, Philippines
Hsu was the 2015 World Champion. In 2012 she won the Silver medal behind Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan, who has since failed her drug re-test. Technically I am predicting Hsu will win her 2nd gold medal. In 2014 she won the silver medal while Li totaled 4 kilos less and won the bronze. I am predicting the same happens again in Rio. Diaz won a bronze medal in Houston and I expect the same result this year.
Dark Horse – Watch out for junior aged athlete Rebeka Koha of Latvia. She placed 4th at the Junior World Championships this year with a 195 total. On paper that probably will not be enough to upset any of the more experienced athletes, however there are only 10 women entered in this category. She may be one bomb out away from winning a medal.
1. Hsing-Chun Kuo, Taipei
2. Sukanya Srisurat, Thailand
3. Lina Marcela Rivas Ordonez, Colombia
This was the category dominated by Boyanka Kostova for all of 2015. However, due to a failed drug test, she is ineligible and this category is wide open. I am giving the edge to Kuo from Taipei who won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships. I also am predicting back to back gold medals for Taipei, who won all of two medals at the 2012 Olympic Games in all sports.
Dark Horse – Ecuador’s Maria Alexandra Escobar Guerrero placed 6th at the 2015 World Championships, and will be in the mix for a medal if she competes well. She also is the oldest athlete entered into the competition at age 36, and is one of 3 masters athletes who will be competing.
1. Wei Deng, China
2. Hyo Sim Choe, North Korea
3. Karina Gorchieva, Kazakhstan
This was originally going to be a slobber-knocker of a competition between Deng and Russia’s Tima Turieva. However, without Turieva’s presence, it should be a runaway victory for Deng, who is the 2014 and 2015 World Champion. Without Turieva, Gorchieva finds her way onto the podium and makes Kazakhstan proud.
Dark Horse — Tzu-Chi Lin of Taipei placed 6th at the 2015 World Championships, within 5 kilos of Gorchieva. This can be the difference between one make or one miss, which determines who is on the podium and who is watching from the back room.
1. Yanmei Xiang, China
2. Zhazira Zhapparkul, Kazakhstan
3. Leidy Yessenia Solis Arboleda, Colombia
Xiang, who is a two time world champion, should easily win this category if she lifts to her abilities. Zhapparkul, who has placed 2nd at the last 2 world championships, will continue that trend. I am giving my nod for the bronze medal Solis, who just won the 2016 Pan American Championships with a 247 total. This was 8 kilos over American superstar Mattie Rodgers.
Dark Horse – Sara Ahmed of Egypt is still a Junior aged athlete. She has been the Youth and Junior World Champion in the past 2 years. She is definitely a threat to Solis, however I will give my nod to Solis who recently won the Pan American Championships in June.
1. Jong Sim Rim, North Korea
2. Lidia Valentin, Spain
3. Darya Naumava, Belarus
Jong Sim Rim placed 2nd at the 2015 World Championships, and she completed 2 clean and jerks on a sprained knee and a hip injury and only lost the gold medal by 2 kilos. She also is the 2012 Olympic Champion at 69KG, so those experiences should be enough to get her back to the top of the podium in Rio. Valentin, who looks to be the new 2012 Olympic Champion after additional re-testing results were announced this past week, also has the honor of being the 2014 Arnold Weightlifting Championship. I am giving the nod for the bronze to Naumava, because all these ladies will probably total over 250 kgs, however there are several ladies fully capable of 245 kilos or more in the total, including America’s Jenny Arthur.
Dark Horse – Two ladies totaled 244KGs at the 2016 Pan American Championships, Maria Fernanda Paris of Chile and Ubaldina Valoyes Cuesta of Colombia. Paris will be competing in her 2nd Olympic Games while Cuesta will be competing in her 4th Games. Both are looking for their first medal.
American Presence – Jenny Arthur will be making her Olympic debut at this category. At the 2015 World Championships she totaled 244KG and placed 6th, however at the Olympic Trials she only made 4 of her 6 attempts and finished with a 239 total. She owns the American Records in the Clean & Jerk and in the Total at this category, and has tied the record in the snatch which was set in 2006 by Doreen Fullhart (106KGs). If she can improve on her 244 total at the Games, she has a fighting chance to find her way onto the podium. Norik Vardanian told me on the phone this week that she is fully capable of setting new American Records and putting together a historical performance.
1. Kuk Hyang Kim, North Korea
2. Sarah Robles, United States of America
3. Yonghee Son, South Korea
Since the 2012 Olympic Games, everyone and their mother knew this would be a gold medal for Tatiana Kashirina of Russia. She won 3 World Championships, 2 European Championships, and the 2015 Arnold Championships. However, as we all know, Russia was expelled from this year’s Games, including Kashirina. Kim totaled 298kgs at the 2015 World Championships and is the highest place finisher from that championship entered in Rio.
Robles, who won the Russian Grand Prix last December, should be on the podium if she lifts to her abilities. I am hoping she can win the silver; but I would be just as ecstatic if it is a bronze. Also within her grasp are American Records, which were all set by 2000 Olympic Bronze Medalist Cheryl Haworth, over 10 years ago. Robles would need 129 in the snatch and 162 in the CJ (and 288 in the total) to set new records. But first things first, Robles needs to lift enough weight to earn the first American Olympic Medal in weightlifting since Haworth (Bronze) and Tara Nott (Gold) won their medals in 2000.
Dark Horse – Alexandra Aborneva of Kazakhstan placed 2nd behind Robles at the IWF Grand Prix in December with a 256KG total. Her best total is 267 from the 2015 World Championships, and if she has a good day is capable of competing with Son for the last spot on the podium.
1. Yun Chul Om, North Korea
2. Kim Tuan Thach, Vietnam
3. Qingquan Long, China
Om has won every competition he has entered since the 2012 Olympic Games, and this should be no different. In London, he won gold while lifting out of the B session. The reason he has had so much success is because he simply has one of the best clean & jerks in the world. His world record of 171KG is over three times his body weight. He has the ability to put any weight on the bar in the clean & jerk to win the competition, regardless of the outcomes in the snatch. Thach can verify this has been the case at many of the championships over the last 4 years – he has out lifted Om in the snatch only to watch a big clean & jerk give him 2nd place. I am giving the nod to Long, the 2008 Olympic Champion. Long has been hit or miss, including bombing out at the 2015 World Championships, however I like him to medal.
Dark Horse – Arli Chontey won a silver medal in Houston with a 132 snatch, then proceeded to miss 150 in the clean and jerk all three times. If he is able to replicate his snatching and then make at least one attempt in the clean and jerk, he is a legitimate threat to surpass Thach or Long.
1. Lijun Chen, China
2. Oscar Figueroa, Colombia
3. Eko Yuli Irawan, Indonesia
Chen, the 2013 and 2015 World Champion, is far ahead of everyone if he lifts to his abilities. He also happens to own both the clean & jerk and total world records in this category. This is the 4th Olympic Games for Oscar Figueroa, and most likely his last. Irawan won a bronze medal at both the 2008 Olympic Games (56KG category) and the 2012 Olympic Games (62KG category), and it looks like that trend will continue for him.
Dark Horse — Watch out for Yoichi Itozaku of Japan, the 2016 Asian Champion in this category. He has placed in the top 10 at several World Championships this quad, and 62KG on paper does not seem very strong after the top 3 athletes. With Japan hosting the next Olympics, a medal from him would go a long way towards building momentum towards the Olympic Games in 2020.
1. Zhiyong Shi, China
2. Daniyar Ismayilov, Turkey
3. Myong Hyok Kim, North Korea
With the recent retirement of Liao Hui of China (who was not named to the Rio team prior to his retirement) and banning of Russia (Oleg Chen), this category overall is much more wide open. Shi was the 2015 World Champion with a monstrous 190KG clean and jerk. Ismayilov was the bronze medalist at the World Championships and won the 2016 European Championships. Kim placed 4th at the 2012 Olympic Games in this category, so I will give him the nod to get on the podium based on experience.
Dark Horse – Pay attention to Bredni Roque of Mexico, who was the most outstanding lifter at the 2016 Pan American Championships. His 336 Total was more than Ismayilov’s 333 total at the European Championships. He also won a bronze medal in the Clean & Jerk at the 2010 World Championships (out of the B session) when he competed for his home country of Cuba. I had the pleasure of watching him compete at the 2015 Doral Weightlifting Championships where he lifted above the American records in this class.
1. Lu Xiaojun, China
2. Nijat Rahimov, Kazakhstan
3. Muhammad Ihab, Egypt
I have to imagine after the 2015 World Championships, Lu has all of the errors out of his system and is ready to end his career with a 2nd Olympic Gold Medal. He already has 3 World Championships and World Records in the snatch (176KG) and Total (380KG). If he can win on his 1st or 2nd CJ attempt, expect to see an attempt made at the world record in the CJ (211KG) which was set in 2001 by Oleg Perepetchenov of Russia. Ihab, who has medaled at the last 2 World Championships, is accustomed to big lifts at the end of a competition to earn a spot on the podium.
Dark Horse — With only 13 athletes entered in this category, almost anything could happen. Andranik Karapetyan of Armenia tied in total with Ihab at the 2015 World Championships but lost to him on body weight. If Ihab is not able to continue his success, Karapetyan can find himself with an Olympic medal.
1. Kianoush Rostami, Iran
2. Tian Tao, China
3. Denis Ulanov, Kazakhstan
Without Russia, we will lose out on seeing an epic battle between Rostami and defending World Champion Artem Okulov. Instead we have the opportunity to see Rostami and Tian Tao battle. I am giving the edge to Rostami, who recently set new world records in the Clean & Jerk and Total with a 220KG Clean & Jerk. Tao will be a fierce opponent to Rostami – however it is difficult to bet again Rostami. Ulanov was the 2016 Asian Champion with a 373KG total, which is about 8 kilos below Tao’s best.
Dark Horse — Yoelmis Hernandez of Cuba placed 7th at the 2012 Olympic Games with a 368KG total. However at the 2016 Pan American Championships, he only totaled 342KG. If he is healthy he will total in the 360-370KG range, which may be good enough to take 3rd place, especially without the two Russian gentlemen who had been at the top of this category.
1. Vadzim Straltsou, Belarus
2. Aurimas Didzbalis, Lithuania
3. Adrian Zielinski, Poland
Straltsou, the 2015 World Champion, seems to have too much of an advantage in the clean & jerk for the rest of the field. Since he bombed out of the 2012 Olympics, he has consistently improved upon his total. I am giving the nod to Didzbalis for the Silver Medal in a tough campaign against Zielinski, the 2012 Olympic Champion at 85KG. Didzbalis bombed out in Houston last year, however put on quite a show while totaling 403KG at the 2015 European Championships. Zielinski’s best total as a 94KG athlete has been 391KG, so he will need at least a 15KG improvement if he wants to repeat as the Olympic Champion.
Dark Horse – Sohrab Moradi of Iran totaled 400KG at the Fajr Cup this past may in Tehran, Iran. Also, if you follow his Instagram, he has unofficially set new World Records in the snatch (190KG) and the Clean & Jerk (234KG) which would total 424KG and easily win the competition. However, until he does it in competition, I think the best he is capable of doing is battling with Zielinski for the bronze.
American Presence – Kendrick Farris will be making his 3rd appearance at the Olympic Games. He placed 10th and 8th, respectively, at his previous two Games while competing in the 85KG category. At the 2015 World Championships, he finished in 11th place. However, he recently set a new American Record in the total with 377KGs at the 2016 US National Championships. If he can reach or exceed that mark, he has a good change to finish in the top 5. To win a medal he probably will need 390KG or more, however if he lifts to his abilities new American Records and a great place finish are within his abilities.
1. Ruslan Nurudinov, Uzbekistan
2. Alexandr Zaichikov, Kazakhstan
3. Simon Martirosyan, Armenia
In 2013 and 2014, Ruslan Nurudinov was on a rampage and indestructible. At the 2014 World Championships, he briefly held a world record in the clean & jerk until Ilya Illn re-set the record by 3 kilos, and beat him on body weight for the World Championships. Last year he was side lined with a knee injury, however now he is back and healthier than ever. Zaichikov was the 2015 World Champion. I am picking Martirosyan for bronze, and he recently won the Junior World Championships with a 412KG total while lifting as a light Superheavyweight (109KG).
Dark Horse – Bartlomiej Bonk of Poland will be competing in his 3rd Olympic Games. He won a bronze medal in this category at the 2012 Games. At the 2015 European Championships he won with a 408KG total; that being said, he is 32 years old. He has a chance to be competitive with the younger athletes, however he looks like a long shot at this point.
1. Lasha Talakhadze, Georgia
2. Gor Minasyan, Armenia
3. Mart Seim, Estonia
This is easily the deepest weight category in the Olympic Games. I am predicting that the 2016 European Championships will repeat itself for the medalists in this category. However I probably will be wrong, and I am OK with that. Ruslan Albegov had been my prediction to win the category until Russia was asked not to attend the weightlifting competition this year. Talakhadze recently snatched 212KG at the European Championships, which is within 3KG of a new world record. At the European Championships, Minasyan looked significantly better (and totaled 17KG more) than at the World Championships in Houston. Seim placed 2nd in Houston, however he did have a letdown doing into the Europeans. I still feel he is in better shape physically than the defending Olympic Champion Behdad Salimi and can lift enough to win a medal.
Dark Horse — It is crazy to say that Behdad Salimi, the 2012 Olympic Champion, is my dark horse pick. However after ACL surgery, he only totaled 430 at the Fajr Cup in May. Hopefully he will continue to become healthy, but I would be shocked if he were able to total in the 450KG – 460KG range in Rio. I would be very happy if it happened, but shocked none the less.
Regardless of my picks, I hope all the athletes and coaches have a great competition and wish everyone the best of luck. What do you think of these picks? Do you agree or disagree? Post your comments below and we will see who knows more, or can make better guesses.
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.