Daniel Godelli
World champion Daniel Godelli - could be an Albanian hero, could be a doping fraud. Time will tell (see 'surprise of the year' below).

2014 in weightlifting: your guide to the next Olympic stars (guest post)

The world’s foremost weightlifting guest blogger is back.

When Ognian Georgiev writes a guest post, it stays written. Below, following on from his epic 2014 Worlds preview, you’ll find his look back at the year in lifting. (Ognian has a book on weightlifter Galabin Boevski out here and runs this Facebook page dedicated to the sport.)

If you’re a fan or have an interest in learning the up-and-coming names for Rio 2016, this is the post for you. If you’re still unsure, then I can promise you the opportunity to learn about the Sinclair coefficient.

Here it is, then. Everything you need to know about weightlifting in 2014, to arm yourself for 2015 and beyond.


By Ognian Georgiev

In 2014, weightlifting warmed up for Olympic battles to come in Rio.

Most of the major stars showed their best in the first clash for 2016 Olympic quota places – the World Championships in Almaty were the start of the qualifying process for next year’s Games.

Here are the most interesting moments, and most deserving superstars, of 2014.

Best male weightlifter: Liao Hui

It is not easy to select just one from so many great stars, but when the numbers speak like this – amazing results in the Asian Games and the Worlds – even the Gods are silent.

Liao Hui proved once again that there are no limits for him. After three unsuccessful challenges to the world snatch record at 69kg, he finally broke it. It was a 14-year-old mark, standing since the Sydney Games. The record was the last one hold by Bulgarian weightlifter Georgi Marko, who lifted 165kg in 2000 during an epic battle for the Olympic gold with Galabin Boevski.

In Almaty, Liao Hui scored 166kg – then, with a perfect 193kg lift, took down another mark with a world-record combined score of 359kg. The Sinclair coefficient of the Chinese tornado was huge – 484.4kg, the best among all the champions in Almaty.

Liao Hui is 27 years old. The question is, what is his limit? We hope to see many more fireworks from him in 2015, and at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Best female weightlifter: Tatiana Kashirina

Just 23 years old and, so far, only defeated four times from 15 attempts in major international competitions. All her defeats still resulted in top-three places.

We are speaking about the Russian superstar at +75kg, Tatiana Kashirina, who stole the show in 2014 – warming up with the European Championships in Tel Aviv, winning the event with 58kg more than second-placed Yuliya Konovalova.

Seven months later, the Russian talent broke all her world records (155+193=348kg), an amazing achievement which required just five attempts. She set two world records in the snatch, one in the clean-and-jerk and two in the overall, while scoring a huge Sinclair coefficient of 363.3kg.

Best U17 male: Meng Cheng

Our next award is for male weightlifters who aren’t yet 18 years old. Two great future stars had an amazing season in the youth division – Meng Cheng and Simon Martirosyan.

The newest star of the Chinese weightlifting school, Meng Cheng was brought to our attention by his incredible performances during 2014 in the 56kg division. He was 16 years old for the entire season. His first top performance was during the Asian Youth Championships in March, where he broke the snatch record of Kim Tuan Thach (VIE) with a 128kg lift and won the event with a total of 275kg.

Five months later, his results improved at the Youth Olympics. Meng Cheng once again snatched 128kg, but this time was able to score a huge 155kg in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 283kg. Both results were new world records for the age group, passing the previous marks by a Bulgarian (with an Azeri passport) named Valentin Hristov (154kg), and Kim Tuan Thach (277kg). The score would have placed Meng Cheng fifth at the senior Worlds in Almaty.

Simon Martirosyan won the U17 European title, took gold at the Youth Olympics, and finished a close second at the U20 Euros. The 17-year-old Armenian dared to compete with seniors in Almaty, finishing an honourable seventh place in the extremely strong 105kg division that saw few new world records during the battle for gold.

Martirosyan did something amazing – he broke the world youth records at +94kg in the snatch, clean-and-jerk and combined, in three different competitions.

The Sinclair coefficient of Meng Cheng is better than that of Simon. The China star broke the total world youth record at 56kg by six kilos, and finished the year unbeaten.

Best U17 female: Jiang Huihua

Those huge results and seven world records from the U17 men weren’t quite matched by the women.

But one lifter who looked far superior to her opponents was 16-year-old Jiang Huihua. The new lifting machine from China won both the Asian Games and Youth Olympics at 48kg very convincingly. She tied the world age-group snatch record, belonging to compatriot Tian Yuan, at 88kg. With 105kg in the clean-and-jerk and a total of 193kg, Jiang Huihua would have been able to win the gold medal in the next weight division – 53kg – where the champion, Pakkaratha Rattanaphon, finished with 190kg.

Though there were no new world records, Egyptian talent Ahmed Sara deserved a mention. She won the African title and Youth Olympics at 63kg with the same score each time, 103+125 (228kg). She then added one more kilo in her combined score to finish 12th place at the senior Worlds. Sara, 16, tried and failed twice to beat Viktoria Savenko’s clean-and-jerk record of 128kg.

Best U20 male: Kim Tuan Thach

There were fireworks in this category: the favourites were Vietnam’s Kim Tuan Thach and Russia’s Artem Okulov.

Kim Tuan Thach started the year strongly, with a gold medal at the World Juniors in Kazan at 56kg. That included breaking two world junior records, in the snatch (133kg) and the total (293kg).

Three months later, the emerging Vietnam star again put up new, higher marks. With a snatch of 134kg (a gold medal in the event) and a total of 294kg, he finished second at the senior Asian Games behind Om Yun Chol. The rivalry between the North Korean and the young talent from Vietnam continued at the senior Worlds where, this time, the clash was even more furious. Thach scored his third junior world records in five months in the snatch (135kg) and the total (296kg), forcing Olympic champ Chol – who is unbeaten in the past two years – to lift a monstrous 168kg to win the competition with his very last attempt. Thach took silver.

Artem Okulov started the season with a gold medal at the World Juniors in his 85kg division. He then added the Russian senior title before picking up another world bronze medal to add to his third-place finish at the Wroclaw Worlds in 2013.

The Russian improved his personal bests to 174/211 (385kg) at the Worlds, failing with what would have been a world title-winning clean-and-jerk attempt of 218kg.

His Sinclair coefficient of 462.1 is very close to that of Kim Tuan Thach at 463.6 – but, wWith better lifting scores and a total of six junior world records, the winner of best U20 male weightlifter in 2014 is Kim Tuan Thach.

A special mention goes to Tian Tao at 85kg. The Chinese powerhouse broke Ilya Ilyin’s world junior record from 2005 with an amazing 218kg lift during the Asian Games. With some improvement in the snatch, Tao is capable of becoming a major contender for the gold medal at the 2015 senior Worlds in an incredibly strong 85kg division.

Best U20 female: Ryo Un-hui

In this division, a couple of talents showed that in the years to come, they will be a major factor in women’s weightlifting.

One of them has already made her mark among the elders: Ryo Un-Hui concentrated only on senior events. The North Korean skipped World Juniors to focus on senior tournaments at 69kg, starting the year as one of the favourites to win the Asian title, only to be beaten by 2013 world champion Xiang Yanmei.

But Xiang didn’t defend her title in Almaty, opening up a chance for Ryo Un-Hui. The North Korean weightlifter grabbed it and, with a personal best of 265kg (120+145) won the biggest award of her career. Not only the world title, but the Sinclair coefficient of 337.7 puts Ryo Un-Hui on top of the U20 female division for 2014.

Srisurat Sukanya improved her personal best with every competition. She started the season with a gold medal at World Juniors in the 58kg divison – her score of 99+119/218kg wasn’t the strongest, but was a nice warm-up for a bigger challenge – senior Worlds. At 19 years old, the Thai competitor was very strong in the snatch and won the gold medal in the event with a personal best of 106kg (four kilos less than Wang Li’s world junior record). 125kg in the clean-and-jerk, for a total of 231kg, was enough for third place in the general classification. Sukanya’s coefficient from Almaty (327.7) is the second-strongest.

Agustiani Sri Wahyuni had an impressive season at 48kg. The Indonesian became the world junior champion and finished second at the Asian Games with a personal best of 187kg. Fourth place in Almaty was the 20-year-old’s last competition in this age group.

Best U23 male: Om Yun Chol

The big guns didn’t bother to participate in their continental events at age-group level. Many are not only established as prime-time athletes, but also managed to win gold medals break records among the seniors this year.

The competition was furious during 2014 – four young lions were in the fight for one spot as the best U23 weightlifter. It was very close, but the top achievements of the year belong to Om Yun Chol.

 The 23-year-old North Korean successfully defended his world title from Wroclaw 2013 at 56kg, lifting 128/168/296kg.

Earlier in the season, he made a lot of noise – breaking his own world record in the clean-and-jerk at the Asian Games, where he won another gold medal. The new mark was set at 170kg. It will be very tough for the talented Om Yun Chol to attack the other two records, set by Halil Mutlu (138kg in the snatch and 305kg combined).

His Sinclair coefficient at the Asian Games, 467.1, was lower than the other contenders for the best U23 male award, but he was unbeaten in competition and posted a senior world record.

Kianoush Rostami stole the show at 85kg. With his very last attempt at the World Championships in Almaty, he beat Bulgaria’s Ivan Markov to the gold medal. His results – 178/213/391kg – were very strong and produced a better Sinclair (469.3) than Om Yun Chol.

However the Iranian won ‘only’ silver at the Asian Games, finishing behind another future star in 20-year-old Tian Tao.

Zhasulan Kydrybayev announced himself to the world in spectacular fashion – the Kazakhstan lifter succeeded Ilyia Ilyn on the throne of the 94kg division with a very strong 179/229/408kg in Almaty. His Sinclair was 465.7 and he has room to improve.

The last contender didn’t win gold at the Worlds, but was part of an amazing battle. Ruslan Nurudinov broke the world record in the clean-and-jerk for the 105kg division, with a great attempt of 239kg, only to see two new changes to the top mark (240kg by David Bedzanyan and 242kg by Ilya Ilyin) just minutes later. The Uzbekistan lifter finished with a gold medal in the snatch and silver overall. His Sinclair coefficient of 472.5 was the highest of all U23 talents in 2014.

Best U23 female: Tatiana Kashirina

Tatiana Kashirina takes her second bow after winning the senior award, as she also led the U23 women’s ranks for 2014. The Russian was in amazing form at the World Championships – you can read more about her achievements above.

There was serious potential in this division during 2014. Five of the seven Almaty world champions were young enough to qualify beneath this age limit – Tan Yayun (China) at 48kg, Zulfiya Chinshanlo (Kazakhstan) at 53kg, Deng Wei (China) at 63kg, Ryo Un Hui (North Korea) at 69kg and Tatiana Kashirina (Russia) at +75kg. The 58kg champion, Deng Mengrong (China), was 24.

A special mention goes to 21-year-old Zulfiya Chinshanlo. She had an amazing battle with another U23 talent, Hsu Shu-Ching,at the Asian Games in September. Both broke a world record. Shu-Ching improved the highest total in the division with 233kg. The Kazakhstan lifter set three new marks at clean-and-jerk during the season – one at the Asian Games and two at the World Championships.

Breakthrough of 2014: Zhasulan Kydrybayev

The big stars of the 94kg division were missing for various reasons in 2014. Olympic champion Ilya Ilyin moved to 105kg, while Russia’s Alexander Ivanov picked up an injury just before the World Championships and missed the most important event of the year.

 The newcomer in the division, Adrian Zielinsky, had high hopes of showing the form that earned him Olympic gold in 2012 at 85kg, but the Polish star bombed out in the snatch.

In this very competitive field, a new star of Kazakhstan weightlifting emerged: 22-year-old Zhasulan Kydrybayev made his major event debut looking like an experienced veteran, finishing the snatch with 179kg at Worlds. Kydrybayev was nine kilos behind the provisional leader, compatriot Vladimir Sedov, before the start of the clean-and-jerk – needing a huge 229kg, just four kilos less than Ilya Ilyin’s world record, to win the gold in his last attempt. He pulled it off, lifting a total of 408kg and securing not only the title, but the award for breakthrough of 2014.

Kyrybayev’s previous experience in international events consisted of third place at the World Juniors in 2012, with a modest result of 363kg at 94 kg – but the new hero of Kazakhstan has weightlifting blood, as his uncle is well-known coach Bekezhan Bekmukhanbetov. Kyrybayev was part of Ilya Ilyin’s training team during preparations for the World Championships. Notably, his two-year doping ban expired three days before the start of competition in Almaty.

Battle of 2014: Ilya wins the 105kg title in Almaty

The 105 kg weight division at the Worlds was billed as a battle of titans: the gold medallist from Wroclaw 2013 in Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Nurudinov, runner-up David Bedzhanyan of Russia, and two-time Olympic champion at 94kg Ilya Ilyin, of Kazakhstan.

All the top contenders were in good form, with three out of three attempts in the snatch. Uzbekistan’s Nurudinov took the lead with 193kg, Ilyin was second with 190kg, while Bedzhanyan was provisionally fourth with 187kg.

The fireworks started in the clean-and-jerk. Nurudinov had the perfect competition, six out of six and a new world record with his last attempt of 239kg. But Bedzhanyan, that record’s previous holder, showed he would not easily surrender his place in the books. The Russian put out 240kg for the second world record of the evening.

Ilya Ilyin had failed at 239kg, but selected 242kg in his final attempt. The Kazakhstan audience exploded after an incredible lift, which reset the world record for the third time in less than 10 minutes. He was 430 grams lighter than Nurudinov, which gave him the overall title after both giants totalled 432kg, just four kilos less than Andrei Aramnau’s world record of 436kg.

Disappointment of 2014: Adrian Zielinski

The Olympic champion at 85kg, Adrian Zielinski, was aiming high at the World Championships. The leader of the Polish national team had switched to a new weight division, 94kg, and was hoping to do well in the absence of Ilya Ilyin and Alexander Ivanov.

But Zielinski suffered a total failure. He bombed out in the snatch, missing twice at 175kg and once at 176kg.

 Earlier in the year Zielinski had won the European title, but he couldn’t find his best during the Worlds. It was only the second time in his illustrious career that he bombed out in this fashion, the previous one being at the  World Juniors in Colombia six years earlier.

Zielinski’s disappointment had an impact on the Polish team’s battle for Olympic quota places. One of the strongest national squads is now, unexpectedly, down to 15th position in the nations’ classification. Just to remind you, a full set of six weightlifters for Rio will only be awarded to the teams ranked first to sixth, while those between seventh and 12th receive five, and 13th to 18th place is only good enough for four competitors in Rio.

There is still time, because points from the 2015 Worlds will be added to the current qualification scores, so Adrian Zielinski may yet put it right.

Surprise of 2014: Daniel Godelli

The world junior champion in Penang three years ago at 69kg, Daniel Godelli had something in mind at the start of the year.The Albanian talent moved up the weights at the beginning of the season, to make his debut in his new category – 77kg – at the European Championships last April.

He faced a dramatic battle  with country-mate Erkand Qerimaj for the gold medal in Tel Aviv. Both finished with the same total of 349kg, but Godelli was 20 grams heavier – a hair or two had left him with the silver medal, but it was only the beginning for him.

Seven months later, the Albanian wasn’t among the favourites to win gold at the World Championships in Almaty. However, he showed great improvement. With 171/198/369kg, Godelli became the first-ever Albanian to win a world title in any of 33 Olympic sports (26 summer and seven winter).

He needed just five attempts to secure the gold medal. In the sixth, he tried to attack the 13-year-old world record of Oleg Perepetchenov (Rus) after putting 211kg on the barbell.

With such a performance, Daniel Godelli was without doubt the surprise of 2014.

A month after that gold-medal triumph, the IWF announced the bad news. The Albanian’s first doping sample had come back positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol. The second test was due to be checked on 15 January. Another surprising turn of events for Godelli, and we’ll see what happens in days to come.

Best event of 2014: the World Championships, Almaty

Olympic qualification started in 2014 with the biggest event, the World Championships. More than 500 weightlifters from 71 countries travelled to Kazakhstan for nine days of action, drama and incredible results. 

That said, Almaty had a rival in the Asian Games in Incheon, which took place in September. Both events saw 10 new senior world records, and some of the best Chinese lifters – Lu Xiaojun (77kg), Zhou Lulu (+75kg) – decided to skip Worlds but participate in Incheon.

The competition in Almaty witnessed some unforgettable battles, such as the above mentioned 105kg, plus the last lifts by Om Yun Chol (PRK) at 56kg, Kianoush Rostami (Iran) at 85kg and Zhasulan Kydrybayev (Kaz) at 94kg.

Scandal of 2014: 18 Azeri athletes test positive

This was the scandal of the weightlifting year, involving 18 competitors from Azerbaijan who gave positive doping tests in 2013. The news broke in March 2014, when the IWF announced that nine athletes had given positive samples. Among them was London Games bronze medalist Valentin Hristov.
 Most of the tests had been taken during the European Championships of 2013.

One month after the first mass ban, nine more Azeri weightlifters were sanctioned, including another London Olympics medallist in Cristina Iovu.

 The strangest thing was that the positive tests were revealed almost a year after they had been taken. There is still not a word from the International Weightlifting Federation to explain the reason behind such a late announcement.

The Azeri federation initiated its own investigation, the result being a mass release of trainers, doctors and executives. The former Soviet Union country paid a huge fine of $500,000 for the positive cases, which allowed its lifters to participate in the first Olympic qualifier in Almaty.

With thanks to Ognian. Guest posts are, obviously, the views of the guest author and not necessarily those of their organisation, employer etc, nor this website.