Despite numerous big names — and the entirety of Russian Weightlifting — out of the competition due to doping suspensions and/or federation bans, Rio has already featured a lot of great weightlifting. A 4-time Olympian finally won his first gold, Deng Wei broke her own world record with apparent ease, and once-unbeatable Lu Xiaojun broke his own snatch world record — only to lose out on gold when a young Kazakh shattered the clean & jerk record by 4kg.
Oh, and a 2008 gold medalist came back to reclaim his title after missing out on the 2012 London Games. There are so many great storylines and performances, it’s getting difficult to keep track.
And if that’s not enough, we’ve still got plenty of weightlifting yet to come. Below is a non-exhaustive lift of which classes have yet to lift, who has what on the line, and the drama and storylines going on behind the scenes.
The Remaining Weight Classes
Friday, August 12
Men’s 85kg (A and B Sessions)
What to Watch: Iran’s Kianoush Rostami has a new world record clean & jerk fresh under his belt from June. Can he grab gold ahead of the incredibly strong — but, some argue, inconsistent — Tian Tao of China? Tao has been flirting with world record numbers for several years, but his most recent international competition ended in a bombout at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships.
Women’s 75kg (A and B Sessions)
What to Watch: This is one of the weight classes most impacted by doping suspensions and the Russian absence. After initially placing 4th in 2012 in London, Spanish lifter Lidia Valentin is now the reigning Olympic champion after the top three lifters in that competition tested positive for banned substances during doping retests. Can she fend off North Korea’s Jong Sim Rim and Belarus’ Darya Naumava? One of our correspondents has Rim favored to win.
The USA’s Jenny Arthur lifts in the A session Friday, but she’ll need a personal best performance — and perhaps some relatively poor performances from her competitors — to have an outside chance at the podium.
Saturday, August 13
Men’s 94kg (A and B Sessions)
What to Watch: Reigning European Champion Tomasz Zielinski has already been removed from competition for doping. At least one Polish news outlet is reporting his brother — 2012 London gold medalist in the 85kg weight class, now lifting at 94kg — Adrian is also out of competition due to detected banned substances.
That leaves the field pretty wide open, and Iran’s Sohrab Moradi — who has been putting up borderline-insane numbers in training and Iran qualifying competition — could run away with it. It also opens up opportunity for the USA’s Kendrick Farris — lifting in his third Olympics, for the first time at 94kg — though he’ll need an impressive performance out of the B session to crack the top 10 overall.
Sunday, August 14th
Women’s 75+kg (A and B Sessions)
What to Watch: Maybe for the first time in over a decade, an American lifter — Sarah Robles, lifting in her second Games — is favored by many to make the podium. With reigning World Champion Tatiana Kashirina out due to the Russian ban, China has entered their own female superheavyweight, Meng Suping. Suping should have little trouble securing gold, making the rest of the podium spots a battle between Robles, North Korea’s Kuk Hyang Kim, and South Korea’s Yonghee Son.
Monday, August 15th
Men’s 105kg (A and B Sessions)
What to Watch: 2012 105kg champ Aleksey Torokhtiy is retired (though still very, very strong), so there will be no repeat in Rio. Perhaps the biggest name absent, though, is Ilya Ilyin, who is banned from competition but is still on his way to Brazil as a spectator. He’s dominated this weight class since moving up from 94kg after the London Olympics, and with both Ilyin and Russia out, it looks like men’s heavyweight will be a battle between Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Nurudinov, Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Zaichikov, and Armenia’s Simon Martirosyan.
Tuesday, August 16th
Men’s 105+kg (A and B Sessions)
What to Watch: Russians Aleksey Lovchev (suspended for doping) and Ruslan Albegov (like all Russian lifters, banned from competing in Rio) are out, leaving things wide open for Lasha Talakhadze. The young Georgian set a European snatch record earlier this year and looks strong in all phases. Defending champion Behdad Salimi of Iran is competing, but he’s coming off a knee injury from late 2015 and doesn’t look to be quite up to full strength in the clean & jerk. Expect Salimi and Talakhadze to stay close in the snatch with the Georgian pulling away in the second portion of the event.
Featured image courtesy IWF Media Services