As the Iranian flag was raised in the stadium, commentators at the 2023 World Weightlifting Championships (WWC) remarked that they had just witnessed one of the most surprising upsets in years. In a move no one had expected, Iranian weightlifter Mir Mostafa Javadi won the highly-competitive Men’s 89-Kilogram Group A division on Sep. 11 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Not only was Javadi not a popular pick to helm the podium in the 89s — regarded as the most fiery men’s division overall — it was the first time the 23-year-old made it to the 89-kilogram podium at Worlds in the snatch, clean & jerk, or Total.
Javadi walked away with gold in the clean & jerk at 215 kilograms, or 473.9 pounds, and gold in the Total, despite finishing sixth in the snatch. He also advanced from ninth to fourth position in the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) official Olympics qualification leaderboards.
2023 World Weightlifting Championships | Full Results & Report
Leading up to the 2023 WWC in Riyadh, which runs from Sep. 4 to 17, the 89-kilogram division was widely predicted to be the most intense session of men’s weightlifting.
The roster of Group A contained multiple former and current World Champions, as well as several current world record holders. But nothing played out as it was supposed to:
2023 World Weightlifting Championships | Men’s 89-Kilogram Podium
- Mir Mostafa Javadi (IRI): 384KG (169/215)
- Li Dayin (CHN): 383KG (170/213)
- Keydomar Vallenilla-Sanchez (VEN): 381KG (171/210)
On the competition’s preliminary entry list, Javadi was ranked 17th overall. Athletes like 2022 World Champion Keydomar Vallenilla-Sanchez, 2019 World Champion Tian Tao, and 2017 World Champion Arley Mendez were all expected to outperform the young Iranian. But when the dust had settled, few of the stars of the 89s were anywhere to be seen on the podium.
How It Happened
When the first half of the 89s wrapped up, Javadi wasn’t on anybody’s radar for a medal in the Total; much less the gold. At his last World Championships in 2022, Javadi had withdrawn from competition, failing to finish at all. Heading into the clean & jerks, Javadi was ranked sixth overall in the snatch behind both Li Dayin, the current world record holder (180 kilograms), and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Vallenilla.
But in the second half of the competition, things began to crumble for the would-be winners: 2017 World Champion Mendez had failed to weigh in to begin with. Karlos Nasar of Bulgaria, widely considered the biggest threat to the podium, was too injured to compete. Dayin severely wounded his hand during the snatches, limiting his strength from then onward. Tao, who currently holds the clean & jerk world record at 222 kilograms, failed all three of his attempts.
Despite an injury that severely hampered his grip strength, Dayin made a brave leap from 206 to 213 kilograms to secure the lead on his final attempt. Tao followed and attempted 214, but lacked the overhead strength to hold his barbell. Javadi remained with the final attempt of the competition, calling for 215 kilograms.
Prior to Riyadh, Javadi’s best clean & jerk internationally was 205, which he hit a few months ago at the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships. A 10-kilogram jump in strength is all but unheard of in World-level weightlifting. With a finger to the sky in prayer, Javadi stepped up to the platform and somehow held 215 kilograms overhead — far and away the biggest comeback of the 2023 WWC so far.
With his unexpected performance, Javadi bullied his way into the debate over who will make it to the 89-kilogram podium at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
He also follows in the footsteps of countryman Kianoush Rostami. Both men won their first World title off the back of an unexpected clean & jerk — Rostami clinched his win in 2011, then went on to become Olympic Champion five years later. History doesn’t always repeat, but it often rhymes.
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Featured Image: William Johnson / @barbellstories