The 2011 European Weightlifting Chammpionships
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
The 2011 European Weightlifting Championships took place in Kazan, Russia. Kazan is the capitol of the Republic of Tatarstan. This area has a long history in weightlifting. Alexander Kourinov, Arkady Vorobeyev, and Nicolai Kolesnikov were all from Tatarstan.
A huge arena called the Basket Hall was an excellent venue. The competition and warm up area were sequestered in one corner of the arena with approximately 2000 to 3000 seats available which were distributed over three levels, so that the lower level seats were relatively close to the platform. This gave the athletes a sense that the audience was in close proximity.
This contributed in no small measure to the home team advantage of the Russian lifters. Since the lower portion of the venue was filled with spectators whenever a Russian was competing, the Russian lifters fed off the home town audience and the national and international TV exposure.
The organizers did an excellent job accommodating the true fans of weightlifting. Everyone with a connection to the sport, past or present, was given access to the competition area for film or photography.
Russia is the Valhalla of modern weightlifting. In his remarks at the opening ceremony, European Weightlifting president Antonio Urso mentioned that all of the weightlifting world has studied the techniques and methods of the Russian school of weightlifting. Several former Soviet sport scientists were in attendance at this competition still studying weightlifting.
Each day a number of Olympic champions were introduced to the audience and given special awards from the Tatarstan sports authority. They did this only for Olympic champions. There were many former Soviet and Russian world champions or world record holders who attended the competitions as well.
The Olympic champions recognized for their achievements: Yuri Zakharevitch, Vladimir Kuznyetsov, Nicolai Kolesnikov, Andrei Tchermerkin, Nicu Vlad, Petar Becheru, Alexander Kurlovich, Oxsen Mirzoyan, Dmitry Beretsov, Alexei Petrov. Past world champions in attendance included Anatoli Pisarenko, Viacheslav Klokov, Victor Solodov, and Valentina Popova.
Olympic CHampions Kolesnikov, Rigert and Petrov. Charniga Photo
The Technical Organization
Generally the competitions at European Championships are run a little more efficiently and faster than the IWF competitions. One of the reasons is that weight changes require a telephone call from the warm up area to the announcers table for IWF competitions. This is a little cumbersome and it was dispensed with at the Europeans, so weight changes were effected more quickly.
Another reason for faster, smoother competitions is that the European Championships jury does not seem to be as proactive as is common at the world championships. Less stoppage of the competition for arguments and discussion keeps the pace more uniform so that athletes and coaches can better time warm ups and rest periods between attempts.
However, one of the rules that at the very least cries out for refinement, if not elimination, is the requirement for each athlete to have a number pasted to his/her leg when they go to the platform. This number fell off an athlete’s leg at least 50 times over the course of the competitions. And, that was just during the ‘A’ sessions.
First, there is the distraction for both coach and athlete to put on the assigned number before going to the platform. If it doesn’t stick to the suit, it has to be taped on the thigh with adhesive tape. Tape or no tape the number falls off.
Second, there is the more significant distraction to the athlete (while leaving the platform) of being informed that the number fell off and he/she must go back and retrieve the sticker with the number on it. An athlete is grappling with what just transpired, immediately after a lift (especially if it was a miss). The furthest thing from the athlete’s mind is whether his/her number is still on a leg or a need to go back and pick it up, so it can get pasted on before the next attempt. This is an unnecessary and unjustified distraction.
In one incident the number dropped off and slid in front of the athlete’s line of sight as she assumed the starting position of the clean and jerk. She missed the clean.
Third, a number that does not stick and is taped on with whatever, looks sloppy. The athlete’s wear special clothing; the manufacturers of which go to great lengths to design the product with appropriate visual aesthetics, suitable for the sport and a potential international TV audience. So, why are weightlifters coming to the platform with numbers plastered to their suits with tapes in various lengths and colors.
Fourth, the numbers were fastened to the outside of the left thigh so as to be visible to the officials at the announcer’s table. The numbers fell off because of the bar brushing against the thighs. One coach apparently frustrated with the number pasted on the thigh, fastened it to his lifter’s left buttocks. So, her number was clearly visible when she turned her back to the officials or the audience.
This is the year 2011. There has to be a better way to do this.
There was a time in weightlifting when the five member jury assigned to oversee the referees was not permitted to overrule their decisions. However, now the jury not only is permitted to do this, but it has become commonplace at international competitions. As has already been mentioned, the juries at this championships rarely overruled the referees.
In some respects a proactive jury can undermine the confidence of the athletes and coaches in the competency of the referees. If the jury overrules the referees with undue frequency, the athletes and coaches can assume with sufficient justification that the referees are only marginally competent. So, if the coach or athlete disagree with a decision rendered by the referees, not only for their athlete’s lift, but for the lift of that particular athlete’s competitor, it is logical to ask why do you need referees in the first place if they can be overruled by a jury?
An extreme case of this ambivalence occurred after the final attempt of the 77 kg class. The Turkish lifter won with his final attempt in the clean and jerk pushing him ahead of the Armenian lifter.
The Armenian coaches and the federation president stormed the jury table demanding the lift be turned down, even though the three man jury agreed with the three white lights of the referees. It soon got ugly with loud screaming and beating of fists on the jury table. In the USA someone would have stepped forward to restrain the Armenian president, but no one did and this scene went on and on for some interminable minutes.
Ultimately, the Turk was awarded the gold medal. The Armenian lifter could not stop crying during the award ceremony and even stepped off the award podium to drop the bouquet of flowers awarded to him onto the table of the center referee whose decision was only one of a unanimous six for a good lift.
It should go without saying that the difference between first and second means much more to these athletes than athletes from affluent nations. Success or failure on the platform has consequences directly connected with one’s standard of living. The Armenian boy was still crying uncontrollably for some time after the award ceremony concluded.
The Russian women were the highlight of these championships with the Turkish team a close second.
Taylan Nurcan won the 48 kg easily. Charniga photo
Taylan Nurcan easily won the 48 kg class. She snatched 90 kg and passed on her third. She made a half heated attempt at 110 kg in the jerk then retired content to win with her first attempt 105 kg. This was quite a distance from her result of 93 kg + 121 kg in Antalya, but consistent with the lower level of this competition. Jenny Pagliaro the 2008 Olympian from Italy was lucky to make her final 98 kg in the jerk after missing 97 kg twice. She jerked the barbell forward twice and dropped them both. Then she jumped to 98 and did the same thing but stepped forward enough to save the lift.
Karagoz Nurdaan (TUR) attempting to jerk 105 kg. Charniga Photo
The jerk from the chest is arguably the most complex element of weightlifting. The correct learning and execution of this element is not a complete mystery in Europe as it is in the USA, but there were an exorbitant number of missed jerks at this competition.
Dasdelen Aylin (TUR) easily won the 53 kg. She missed the jerk with a European record 122 kg after a huge jump from 112 kg. It is difficult to perform a precise motion after taking a jump in weight of about 20% of bodyweight, no matter how strong you are.
Desdelin missing 122 kg record jerk after 10 kg jump. Charniga photo
The upcoming star in this class appears to be Coban Aysegul. The 18 year old has the important attributes for future success: flexibility, good technique, focus. The Armenian Grigoryan Elen, who placed second, had arguably the best jerk technique of the entire championships.
New face on the Turkish team Coban Aysegul. Charniga photo
Nastassia Novikava (BLR) won the 58 kg easily. She made a nice 100 kg snatch and had 103 overhead easily but lost it forward. Her 125 kg was the best of the three, very strong and not far from her result of 130 kg in Anatalya.
Alexandra Klejnowska (POL), the former world and European Champion now 29 and a mother, missed two snatches. Always better at the clean and jerk, she made only her opener with 110 kg, unable to rise from the squat with 115 kg twice.
The thumb less grip is method of grasping the bar where the thumb is on the same side of the bar as the fingers. It is a grasp suitable for the era of the strict press. There are no special benefits to this grasping of the bar for the jerk. On the contrary extra attention and effort are needed to switch the grip after recovery from the clean. One of the lifters missed her first two jerks employing this method.
The 63 kg class was the first of the women’s classes to have a battle for first with two Russians entered.
After missing 98 twice, Ruth Kasiyre (NOR) made an easy lift with the same weight with power to spare. Hanna Batsiushka (BLR) dropped her first attempt forward with 101 kg but tried to too hard to correct this on her second and suffered a competition ending elbow injury.
Of the top three Shainova (RUS) started first with 104. She managed this weight after a long struggle in the squat position. She dropped her second attempt with 107 kg behind and did the same thing with 107 on her third. She seems to slow her descent into the squat excessively starting at about parallel. Then loses the weight in the subsequent struggle to lower her body into a deep squat and secure the weight overhead. Tsarukaeva (RUS) dropped to the low squat position without “braking” the barbell at parallel and made an easy, efficient 108 kg on her first.
Simsek Sibel (TUR) missed with this same 108, dropping the barbell backward after getting it to arms length at “power snatch” height. Simsek then made an easy 108, but nevertheless it was a near power snatch. She then opened the door for the two Russians when she did a high pull with her third at 110 kg.
Tsarukaeva dropped her second with 112 forward but came back and sat extremely low to save this same weight on her third. This gave her a commanding lead of 8 kg over Shainova and 4 kg over the Simsek. Her best of 115 kg was made in 2007 when she also made her best totals of 250 and 251.
Tsarukeva sits low with 112 snatch. Charniga photo.
In the clean and jerk Kasiyre made two strong attempts with 117 and 121 but was unable to rise from the squat with 125 kg.
Of the top three, the leader Tsarukaeva started first with 128 kg and made an easy lift. Her jerk is flawless. She was followed by Shainova who made an easy opener with 130 kg and, like Tsarukaeva, jerked the barbell with a Russian weightlifting textbook precision.
Simsek opened with 130 kg as well. After practically power cleaning the weight she jerked it strongly. Out came Tsarukaeva with 133 kg and although the recovery from the clean was tougher than her first, this is no problem when you have a technically proficient jerk. She was now up 11 kg on Shainova.
Shainova was up next with 135 kg and made another easy clean followed by another perfect jerk from the chest. However, she was still six kilos behind Tsarukaeva. Tsarukaeva appeared with the same 135. Her classic jerk failed her after a big struggle to stand up with the clean. She got the weight to arms length but with an obvious press out with both arms.
Simsek selected 137 kg to go ahead of Tsarukaeva on bodyweight. She cleaned it OK, but after standing for some seconds jerked it forward and down it came. Another strong clean with 137, but once again Simsek jerked the barbell forward and dropped it.
Now it was Shainova’s turn. She had locked up second place with her 135 so she went to 141 kg, only 2 kg from the world record, to push Tsarukaeva out of first place. She made a tougher clean than her 135 but a perfect jerk followed and she was the champion.
Marina Shainova (RUS) makes a erfect jerk with 141 kg for the gold medal. Charniga Photo.
Marina Shainova has a somewhat unusual technique in both snatch and clean. She accentuates a vertical rowing motion with her arms and shoulders early in the switch from the pull phase of lifting to the descent. She has unusually large biceps muscles as a result of this technique peculiarity.
The women’s 69 kg class was another contest between two Russians. However, two time world champion Oxana Slivenko was way ahead of her nearest rival Tatiana Matveyeva, so this was not a very interesting contest. In the snatch most of the lifts leading up to Matveyeva’s opener were power snatches. Most notably the bronze medalist Eszter Krutzler power snatched all three attempts. Matveyeva made a shaky 105 kg opener, dropped 110 kg forward but came back to make this weight on her third.
A few of the Russian women and a number of the Russian men jump forward and lose their lifts forward. This is not typical of the Russian lifters of the past who either jumped back a little or shifted their feet to the side only when squatting under the barbell.
Slivneko made all three lifts in pretty good form. Apparently suffering from sore knees she wraps both legs heavily above and below the knee joint, presumably to shift the strain away from the joints.
In the clean and jerk Matveyeva opened with 130 kg and essentially power cleaned this weight. Slivenko followed with 140 kg with an easy clean but a sloppy jerk. She barely pauses after recovery from the clean and with knees slightly flexed jerks the weight forward. Her knees, exposed between the wraps, were beet red from liniment. Matveyeva answered with a strong clean and a very shaky jerk with 141, but it was a good lift.
Slivenko took 145 for her second to go ahead of Matveyeva in the jerk. She made a good clean and pretty much muscled the jerk. This is a pretty good result for her but a long way from her best of 156 made at the 2007 world championships. Matveyeva responded with 146 to go for gold in the jerk. She pulled the weight forward from the platform, got it to her chest anyway, but had to drop it in front.
Oxana Slivenko (RUS) cleand her first attempt 140 kg. Charniga Photo
Slivenko chose 150 kg for her third, anticlimactic jerk as she had already had won all three gold medals. She dragged it off the floor, got it on her chest, but it was way too heavy. As mentioned this is a long way from 156 kg.
The 75 kg class was another Russian showdown. The two Russians Yevstyukhina and Zabolotnaya went at it with no one really close to them. Both attempted world records. There were essentially three flights in this class: The two Germans, the Ukrainian Mironyuk and Lydia Valentin (ESP) and the two Russians.
After the two Germans finished Mironyuk made 108 with quite a struggle then deadlifted 112. Lydia made identical lifts with 112, 117, 122 kg for a personal best.
Nadia Yevstyukhina (RUS) was up first with an easy 125 kg. She moved her feet to the side and in about the same line and did not really hit bottom in the squat. The heavier Zabolotnaya replied with a fairly easy 128. She has recovered from a knee injury and wraps her knees heavily with powerlifting type bandages.
Yevstyukhina moved ahead by 2 kg with a visibly harder than the 125 but deep squat snatch with 130 kg. Zabolotnaya wanted more so Yevstyukhina followed herself with 132 kg. This went up Ok but the weight was a little forward and down it came.
Zabolotnaya selected 133 to go ahead for the gold in the snatch. She has a unusually wide stance and uses the no foot movement, semi upright rowing motion in the pull as the 63 kg Russian Shainova. She managed this near world record weight with a big struggle in the bottom of the squat but secured it with a step forward for the down signal.
Zabolotnaya went for a world record 135 kg on her third. The barbell briefly reached arm’s length as it shifted backwards, only to be dropped behind. Going into the clean and jerk it was Zabolotnaya 133 kg to Yevstyukhina’s 130 with Valentin third at 122.
Just as in the snatch the two Germans lifted alone. They did not demonstrate much in the way of technical proficiency and made only one attempt each. Lydia Valentin opened with an easy 132; took a big 10 kg jump for an equally easy 142 kg. Lydia then jumped to a personal record 146 kg and despite cleaning it well her jerk lacked just a fractional amount of the necessary effort and down it came in front. She not only lifted more than the two Germans and the Ukrainian lifter but was clearly technically superior to all three.
Of the two leaders Zabolotnaya came out first in the clean and jerk with 153 kg. She made an easy no foot movement clean followed by what is more of a push press with a second knee bend, push jerk style lift. She has fairly large arms for someone in this weight class, and it is obvious from her jerk technique that she uses her arms a lot to push up on the bar. Yevstyukhina followed with a hop forward clean and easy jerk with 156 kg to take the lead on bodyweight.
Zabolotnaya replied with a very slight hop forward clean with 158 kg. She had to take a step forward to get her balance; shaking, she squatted for the jerk and pushed the weight to arms length with a lot of arm action. However, she appeared to be on the verge of dislocating her left elbow so she dropped the weight backward and walked off holding this arm.
Zabolotnaya (RUS) about to lose 158 kg jerk. Charniga photo.
Zabolotnaya made an easier no foot movement clean with 158 on her third and instead of descending into a shallow half squat and muscling the weight overhead she tried to descend lower under the barbell for the jerk, but to no avail. She had to drop it forward. It was obvious she felt the pain from the injured elbow and decided not to risk a serious injury.
Already European champion of the clean and jerk and total, Yevstyukhina decided to go for the world record. She was a little over excited when she pulled her second attempt with the 162 kg forward from the start and dumped it in front. She took this same weight for her third attempt. This time the initial pull shifted the barbell towards her body but she still had to jump forward to receive it at the chest; then take a step forward before setting for the jerk. A near perfect jerk followed, and she took the world record from the Russian turned Kazak Podobedova.
A near perfect jerk for Yevstyukhina’s world record 162 kg. Charniga Photo
The 75+ was anticlimactic because there were a total of five lifters and Khurshudyan (ARM) was not in top form. She did make all six but her weights were far below her best even at her former weight class 75 kg. That left only the Russian world champion and world record holder Kashirina.
She opened with an easy 137 kg. Then she went to 142 on her second also with no problem. Now Kashirina jumped 4 kg to better her own world record. She made this one with a struggle in the low squat position to hold the weight from dropping forward. Her heels came off the platform as she struggled to get her balance, but she managed to hold it and fixed the weight after a step forward.
Kashirina (RUS) manages to hold this 146 world record. Charniga Photo
Former Soviet sport scientist Vladen Kanyevsky showed me her bar trajectories for both the snatch and clean and jerk. Kanyevsky is still, as the Russians say, “working in weightlifting.” He records and performs the calculations of this technical data for all the top lifters at the major competitions.
She has, according to the Soviet models of optimum technique, an atypical forward bar trajectory. That means the center of the bar, which should move first backwards towards the athlete from the instant the discs leave the platform, shifts instead in front of the vertical line of the bar’s initial position at the start and stays there, i.e., it does not move backwards towards the athlete during the squat under. That is why she jumps forward a little which in turn adds to the difficulty of lifting a maximum weight.
You can see this barbell shift even with the naked eye because the bar goes straight up and a little forward until it reaches her knees. Nevertheless a world record is a world record. There are no style points in weightlifting.
The clean and jerk mirrored the snatch competition with Khurshudyan making all three lifts but finishing with 140 kg some 11 kg less than she made last year in the 75 kg class.
Kashirina who has a slight but nonetheless plainly visible hyperextension at the knee joint, made three good lifts finishing with a 181 kg junior world record and a junior record total of 327 kg. Like the snatch her forward pull causes her to jump forward slightly in the squat to get the barbell to her chest. And, she jerks slightly forward as well but compensates with a wide scissoring under the barbell.
Her total of 327 and snatch were senior world records.
Overall the only interesting competitions among the women pitted Russian against Russian, a consequence of an overall lack of depth form the rest of the European countries with the exception of Turkey.