European Weightlifting Championships 2018: Ones to watch
With 124 men and 113 women representing a total of 31 countries across 48 events, the European Weightlifting Championships will bring together the continent’s top lifters for a week of unmissable action in the Romanian capital of Bucharest.
Among those competing at the Championships – which will start this Monday, March 26, and conclude on the following Sunday, April 1 – will be Lasha Talakhadze and Lydia Valentín Perez, the winners of the IWF Men’s and Women’s 2017 Lifter of the Year awards.
Talakhadze and Valentín were both gold medal-winners at the IWF World Championships in Anaheim at the end of last year and will be hunting gold again in Bucharest.
Georgian Talakhadze, lifting in the men’s +105kg division, is gunning for a third consecutive triumph at the European Weightlifting Championships, having topped the podium in Førde (Norway) in 2016 and Split (Croatia) in 2017.
Talakhadze will be up against compatriot Irakli Turmanidze, as well as the likes of Hungarian Péter Nagy and Czech Republic lifter Jiří Orság.
Elsewhere in the men’s competition, Artūrs Plēsnieks and Krzysztof Zwarycz will hope to go one better after claiming silver medals at the World Championships, but both will have to contend with fiercely competitive divisions.
In the 105kg category, Latvian Plēsnieks’ rivals will include Austrian Sargis Martirosjan, while in the 85kg division, Croatian Amar Musić’s record total score of 355kg matches that of Zwarycz.
Romanian athletes, who will be roared on by the home support, are set to be in medal contention in several of the men’s divisions.
Home hopes will be pinned on athletes such as Nicolae Onica in the 94kg division, Ionut Ilie in the 62kg category and Paul Dumitrascu in the 69kg division, although the latter will face tough competition from the likes of Bernardin Matam, who took a bronze medal home to France following last year’s World Championships.
Romanian fans will also be targeting medals in the women’s competition, with Mădălina Molie and Loredana Toma, who picked up a gold medal in Anaheim, considered by many to be the two front-runners in the 63kg division.
Also representing the host nation will be Andreea Aanei, who has the top personal best total score in the +90kg category, as well as Florina Sorina Hulpan and Elena Andrieș, who are seen as two of the top lifters in the 69kg and 48kg divisions, respectively.
Irina Lepșa is in the running in the 58kg category, although Latvian Rebeka Koha is likely to start as the favourite due to her bronze in Anaheim and the fact that her personal best total score is 11kg heavier than her nearest challenger.
Anastasiia Hotfrid, another member of a strong Georgian contingent in Bucharest, will also start as the favourite in the 90kg, having won gold at the World Championships in Anaheim last December.
Meanwhile, in the 75kg division, French lifter Gaëlle Nayo-Ketchanke, who finished in third place in Anaheim, will be hoping to knock Lydia Valentín off the top spot.
However, it would be a brave person to bet against Valentín, for whom this event carries extra significance.
The charismatic Spaniard picked up her first major senior medal – a bronze – at the 2007 edition in Strasbourg, France, and has gone on to dominate the division at the European Weightlifting Championships, with three golds in 2014, 2015 and 2017.