Competition Reports

The 2007 European Weightlifting Championships

The 2007 European Weightlifting Championships
April 17 – 22,
Strasbourg, France
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
Sportivny Press©
The competitions took place in Strasbourg, the Alsace region of France. The modern facility was a good choice of the organizing committee. There were on average about 1000 spectators each day.
The French did a good job of getting the audience “into” the competitions by providing two announcers who were David Colom from Puerto Rico who called out the athletes in English and another French announcer who repeated this in French; however, more importantly, they provided the “color” for the event.
The French color announcer made a special effort to get the audience excited about each upcoming weight class, even leading a countdown of the final 10 seconds before each class began. This announcer created a rather significant “home team” advantage for the French lifters by getting the partisan French behind every attempt of a French athlete; he also encouraged the audience to support any lifter attempting a record, taking a weight to place first, or needing an attempt to stay in the competition. This was good for the sport and should be emulated at all competitions.
Entertainment was provided on the platform area during the 10 minutes between lifts and the breaks between sessions. There was a large video screen facing the audience. The audience was able to view the warm up area and replays of the lifts on the platform. This was on a number of occasions not only entertaining but informative to the astute weightlifting fan.
The Results
Table 1. Classification of Men’s Teams
Team & Place # athletes %Snatch
Success %C&J
Success Overall Rate #Lifters
3 C&J Bomb outs
1. Russia 8 62% 50% 56% 0 0
2. Belarus 8 87% 70% 80% 3 0
3. Turkey 7 62% 58% 63% 1 0
4. Poland 8 70% 65% 68% 1 0
5. Moldova 7 66% 50% 58% 1 0
6. Azerbaijan 8 75% 48% 60% 0 0
Table 2. Classification of Women’s Teams
Team & Place # athletes %Snatch
Success %C&J
Success Overall Rate #Lifters
3 C&J Bomb outs
1. Russia 7 66% 76% 74% 1 0
2. Ukraine 7 80% 66% 74% 1 0
3. Turkey 7 49% 52% 50% 1 0
4. Belarus 6 70% 61% 66% 1 0
5. Poland 7 61% 57% 59% 1 0
6.Spain 6 72% 66% 69% 1 0

Quantitatively the results can be a bit misleading. For instance the Armenian women placed 11th in the team rankings but second in the medal tally and tied the Russians with 6 gold medals. They only entered 3 lifters which was much more bang for their buck. On the other hand, some of the teams placing in front of the Armenian women earned more points because of their shear number of entrants. Some of their points were purchased at the expense of effort.
Although these championships did not show a clear cut connection between success rate and placing, the general rule that your success rate is still a good reflection of placing. This was generally true for the women and most noticeably for the Belarus men.
General Impressions

Vanev and Terzissky. Charniga Photo
The main reason for his struggles and the reason he missed the 191 was that he simple could not get the bar back far enough when it was overhead. He can forget about getting the bar behind the ears; it was all he could do to get it behind his nose. However, he seemed to have the most fun of any competitor. Since he was not in contention for a medal, there was no pressure on him; he was usually laughing as he walked from the platform after his attempts.
Which is the real question?
Tommy Kono, America’s greatest weightlifter, once responded in the following way to a lifter’s assertion that American weightlifters were unable to compete with the Europeans because they (the Europeans) used doping. “That has nothing to do with a lack of progress in American weightlifting.” You should show some progress whether the other guy cheats or not. There is no connection between the two.
At this competition, with the exception of two lifters (one male and one female), the Turkish team was as flat as a crepe suzette. One former world champion female lifter began her C&J attempts with a weight some 30 kilos below her own world record and she is still only 19 years old. At this competition her arms and shoulders now looked like those of a female, fit, but a female’s arms nonetheless. Several of the Bulgarian lifters were either absent or, like the Turks, “crepe like.”

Desdelin TUR pulling on 118. Charniga photo

Shainova pulling on 120 kg. Charniga photo

These results probably mean that sophisticated, out of competition drug testing has slowed significantly those who were apparently “exceeding” the speed limits. So, does the fact that the “speeders” have been slowed down allow the others to catch up?
In actuality, the real question is why the lifter who blames lack of progress on the other guy’s doping is unable to progress relative to those lifters who do make progress, pass all of the tests with new more sophisticated tests or otherwise. How or why do they improve and the lifter with the excuses does not? That is the real question.
The technical disorganization of international competitions

Pisarevsky RUS 215 kg. Charniga photo
Antiquated rules and questionable procedures in the technical organization
This report is not the correct forum for revamping the rules of weightlifting but two rules really should be eliminated as infractions; they are press out in the jerk and oscillating the bar in the jerk. Enforcement can be arbitrary and cause more harm than just inconsistencies. Consider this incident, which robbed two lifters over one questionable call because of a questionable rule.
Pavel Najdek 105+ kg (POL) opened with 230 kg in the C&J. He completed the lift with three whites. The guy is 34 years old. His elbows don’t lock very well; you could say the jerk was a little “spongy,” He was followed by teammate Gregorz Kleszcz 105+ (POL) with the same 230 kg, 2nd attempt. He was having a good day having made three snatches and his first attempt in the clean and jerk. The jury waited until Kleszcz was on the platform and approaching the barbell to stop the competition. They called the officials over to apparently explain to them that they were going to reverse the ruling on Nadjek and why (press out). This took long enough to destroy the Kleszcz’s concentration. So, he missed for the first time on what probably would have been a six for six day.
In the meantime, Najdek, who had been preparing for his next attempt in the warm up room, finds this out some 10 minutes after the fact that his 230 kg was turned down. Kleszcz had already taken (and missed) 230 kg. Najdek decides to “repeat” with 232 kg and fails miserably in the jerk. So, three attempts and two guys messed up over a questionable decision, over an antiquated rule and the questionable handling of the affair by the jury.
This is unacceptable. The lifters have prepared for these championships with hundreds of hours of punishing hard work. They get only three tries in each exercise (a total lifting time on the platform of about thirty seconds). The rules and procedures of weightlifting competitions are in some cases antiquated and the pace and rhythm of competitions made inefficient with too many people officiating. They are in need of revamping, in line with a modern competition program and modern technology.
Without question, staging an international competition with some 47 countries represented and so many different languages to complicate communication is a daunting task to say the least. But the technical officials and the coaches need to review and change, if necessary, the competition procedures and rules in order to streamline and modernize the competitions to reward the athletes with the very minimum they are due which is the fullest opportunity to achieve their best results.
The Future of Weightlifting Competitions: Tactical and Psychological Skill
By far the best classes of these championships were the 77 and 85 kg men. These classes reflected well the tactics of the 1 kilo era. The athletes and especially the coaches of the athletes who did well in these two weight classes really should be commended. The coaches and athletes who are able to think in terms of 1 kilo increments instead of 2.5 and 5 kilo have an advantage. They recognize the opportunity to make smaller incremental increases in weight creates tighter and psychologically more challenging competitions.

Calancea (ROM) cleaning 208 kgPhoto B. Charniga
In this era of wait for the test results to see who really won, it is hard to be definitive in terms why someone prevailed but consider this. Ara Khachatryan 77 kg (ARM) placed 2nd and fought a close tactical competition with teammate Georgie Davtyan 77 kg (ARM). Last year in Poland he fell all over the platform trying to jerk the barbell by dropping into a full squat position. This year he succeeded with all three jerk attempts with a more reasonable 1/4 squat push jerk technique.

Davityan ARM cleaning 193 kg Photo B. Charniga

However, a more revealing indicator of success were his weight selections: 159 – 163 – 165 and 191 – 194 – 196 {increments of 4 + 2; 3 + 2}. His teammate and eventual champion did likewise: 163 – 165 – 166 and 193 –195 – 197 {increments of 2 + 1 and 2 + 2}. Between them they made 11 of 12 attempts and applied psychological pressure on the bronze medalist Sagir (TUR) with each success in the “new” smaller increments.

The 85 kg class was an even more exciting lesson in 1 kilo tactics. Ince 85 kg (TUR) did 169 – 171 – 172 and 195 – 198 – 201 {increments of 2 + 1 and 3 + 3}. Straltsou 85 kg (BLR) matched Ince with 165 – 169 – 172 and 193 – 198 – 201 {increments of 4 + 3 and 5 + 3}. The eventual winner Calancea 85 kg (ROM) made the same total with 160 – 163 – 165 and 198 – 208 {3 + 2 and 10}. These three medalists in the total made 17 consecutive lifts.

If the athlete is well prepared for competitions, the 1 kilo rule offers a distinct psychological opportunity. If, for instance, the athlete makes a 1 or 2 kg increase, he does not have to think in terms generating significantly more effort to lift the weight (as would be the case with 2.5 kg and more increases) and risk altering the motor pattern of the previous attempt. Instead the athlete can think in terms of “I have already done this weight because the difference of 1 – 2 kg is so small.” The lifter’s psychology can be to change nothing; he just repeats the effort of the previous successful attempt. One could say, for instance, that Ince snatched the same weight three times (169, 171, and 172 kg).
Of Wolves and Dogs part II: The Faces
The winner of the 69 kg class was Vencelas Dabaya (FRA). His technique is average, but he is brutally strong. Although he had the home team advantage with the largest audience of the championships and the color announcer pumping the crowd for his every attempt, he fell behind in the snatch by 7 kg. However, this guy was clearly extremely well prepared psychologically. He really didn’t need a boost from the hometown crowd. The audience could see the warm up area on the video monitor and the cameras usually focused on the activity in this area during the break between lifts.

Dabaya (FRA) C&J 180 kg Photo B. Charniga
When the camera in the warm up area focused on Dabaya, it was plainly obvious that he was already the winner. He was 7 kilos behind and the clean and jerk competition had not even begun; however, the look of calm and intense focus on his face told the story. He was ready to do whatever was necessary to win.
Lukanin, as previously stated, had his concentration messed up by an official snafu, but he had two shots to move into first place. On his second attempt with 185 kg, he rushed out to the platform in agitation like a powerlifter about to attempt a big dead lift instead of controlling himself with a complex explosive movement like the clean and jerk; of course, he failed.
Dabaya approached each weight with a calm and controlled focus appropriate to these exercises and succeeded each time. After he had already won with his second 183 kg, he came out to try 190 kg amidst great fanfare. He just did a pull with this weight. However, like any good showman, he did not want to leave it at that. Calmly looking first behind (to see how much platform was behind) then pushing the barbell forward a little, he did a back flip so that the cheering audience got to see something more than a high pull.
Taner Sagir, 77 kg (TUR) 2004 and 2005 European champion 2004 Olympic and 2006 world champion, has always displayed a fierce psychological intensity to succeed with every attempt. However, at this championship he made his opener with 160 kg in the snatch with a slight struggle to hold his balance in the low squat. The look of uncertainty on his face when he approached the barbell for his 164 kg 2nd attempt spoke volumes; this was not his day. He made only one more attempt (in the clean and jerk) and was lucky to do that.

Sagir TUR cleans 193 kg Photo B. Charniga
A bearded Syzmon Kolecki 94 kg (POL) sort of ran up to the barbell at the 2006 Worlds in Santa Domingo for his attempts on the platform, growling like a powerlifter. He spent little time preparing over the barbell and was lucky to get even one clean and jerk. Here in Strasbourg he finished a morning workout on the day of competition with repetition front squats with 140 kg, just 4 hours before his competition. By the start of competition at 3:00 PM, he had shaved the beard he had at 11:00. Each weight on the platform was approached with a calm demeanor; he even “wasted” some 25 to 30 seconds at the chalk container on his winning 218 kg clean and jerk attempt. The growling powerlifter of Santa Domingo was gone, replaced by the champion weightlifter.

Kolecki POL jerks 216 kg Photo B. Charniga

Nadjek (POL) with his “unnecessary” 232 kg. Photo B. Charniga

Probably the two best examples of psychological toughness of these championships, i.e., the superiority of the wolf over the dog, were the third attempt clean jerks of Pavel Najdek and Gregorz Kleszcz. As previously stated, both were the victims of questionable officiating.

However, both of them overcame these distractions, in grand fashion, especially Najdek. After learning his 230 kg success was reversed, his 2nd attempt at 232 kg was not close. In fact when the barbell went up for the three succeeding attempts of Kleszcz and Schecherbatis (LAT), one just assumed he had called it a day. Instead Najdek came back to make a great lift with 241 with one red light (remember by this time the judges had been alerted to watch for press out) and win the silver in the clean and jerk. Under similar circumstances many a lesser lifter would have simply bombed out.

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