China’s women weightlifters are the single most dominant competitive force in the modern history of the sport — and that’s no exaggeration. On May 9, 2023, China logged yet another triple-gold-medal performance at the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships (AWC) in Jinju, South Korea.
Liao Guifang (71KG) snatched 120 kilograms (264.5 pounds), clean & jerked 148 kilograms (326.2 pounds), and Totaled 268 kilograms to win her category by a 20-kilogram margin. More importantly, both the snatch and Total were new World Records.
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Not only did Guifang bag the gold at the 2023 AWC with room to spare (she declined her third clean & jerk attempt), she also reclaimed the 71-kilogram snatch record from Romania’s Loredana Toma, who lifted 119 kilograms at the 2022 World Weightlifting Championships (WWC).
Toma was, and is, an outlier in more ways than one. Not only was she the first 71-kilogram weightlifter to eclipse the snatch World Standard (a figurative benchmark set for the class when it was first established in 2018), she was, for a time, the only woman weightlifter outside of the Asian region to hold a senior World Record.
Thanks to Guifang, as of May 2023, every single Senior record in women’s weightlifting belongs to an Asian athlete once again.
Straight to the Top
With barely a year until the commencement of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, all eyes (and efforts) are turning toward classes like the Women’s 71-kilogram. The 71s are among a handful of classes that will be contested at the Games, and China is far from the only country to concentrate its efforts on securing a gold medal there.
As of Jinju, though, Guifang is now the athlete to beat in the 71s. According to the International Weightlifting Federation‘s ranking leaderboard, which will strongly influence who qualifies for Paris, Guifang has put up a 20-kilogram lead in the Total ahead of every other 71-kilogram woman in the world in 2023.
Moreover, she also logged the strongest performance at a continental event in 2023 so far. Here are the 71-kilogram winners from regional events and last year’s Worlds:
Women’s 71-Kilogram Leaders
- 2023 Asian Championships: Liao Guifang (CHN) | 268 kilograms
- 2023 Pan American Championships: Angie Palacios Dajomes (ECU) | 248 kilograms
- 2023 European Championships: Loredana Toma (ROU) | 240 kilograms
- 2022 World Championships: Loredana Toma (ROU) | 256 kilograms
Prior to Guifang’s performance at the 2022 WWC, where she finished fourth, she hadn’t appeared at an IWF event since 2019 (that year’s Junior Worlds, which she won at 64 kilograms). In the interim, China has had a surplus of talent to work with, including former 71-kilogram Total record-holder Zhang Wangli, who did not appear at Asians this year.
The country appears to have a bottomless pit of top-tier weightlifters. While there’s plenty of time until the fireworks crack in Paris, it appears that, with Guifang out in force, Team China has yet another weight class on lockdown — for now.
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Featured Image courtesy of Weightlifting House on YouTube