The 2007 World Weightlifting Championships

The 2007 World Weightlifting Championships
September 15 – 25, 2007
Chang Mai, Thailand
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
Sportivny Press©
The Competition Venue

The host country Thailand did an excellent job of staging these championships. The Thais were great hosts; their volunteers who worked the training hall and competition venues were wonderful people to deal with.
One interesting twist was introduction at these championships were the loading crews. Men served for the men’s weight classes; female loaders for the women’s classes. In the event of and injury (there were about 5 or 6 elbow dislocations for instance), all of the loaders would run up to the stage and stand shoulder to shoulder in front of the platform to block the audience’s view of the athlete on the platform. This gesture granted the injured athlete a modicum of privacy in those moments of shock and discomfort.
The only major problem was the weather. It was 85 to 90+° F every day accompanied by high humidity. For some reason or other, there was no air conditioning in either the competition or training halls. And, to actually make matters worse, the fans situated about the competition hall sprayed mist just like they do in Las Vegas or Phoenix. But spraying mist into already humid air only increased the discomfort instead of alleviating it.
There were some 60+ platforms in the training hall, which like the competition hall, was not air conditioned and not well ventilated. Around 12:00 PM the training hall would fill up. This would create very uncomfortable conditions for training. In these conditions it was hard to even hold onto the bar. The palms of the hands were always wet from perspiration. Depending on the athlete’s size, one might need to consume 2 or more liters of water in a 1 ½ hour workout.

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. China 8 62.5% 46% 54% 2 1
2. Bulgaria 8 67% 58% 62.5% 1 0
3. Russia 8 58% 42% 50% 1 1
4. Belarus 8 71% 62.5% 67% 1 0
5. Cuba 8 58% 62.5% 60% 1 0
6. Poland 8 33% 42% 37.5% 2 0
34. USA 8 42% 38% 40% 0 2

Table 2. Classification of Women’s Teams
Team & Place # athletes %Snatch
Success %C&J
Success Overall Rate #Lifters
3 C&J Bomb outs
1. China 7 81% 71% 76% 2 0
2. Russia 7 81% 48% 65% 1 1
3. Thailand 7 57% 62% 60% 3 1
4. N. Korea 6 78% 50% 64% 1 0
5. Korea 7 62% 71% 67% 3 1
6.Ukraine 7 71% 48% 60% 0 0
11. USA 7 62% 71% 66.5% 3 0

In the men’s competitions perhaps the biggest surprise was the Bulgarian team. Their administration was new as were their coaches. However, the team to watch is Belarus because they have a young talented team.

Aramnau Belrarus cleans 225 kg. Charniga Photo

Although the Chinese men placed first, they could have done better. They missed many jerks. For instance, Zhiyong Zhi and Li Hongli both missed two jerks which would have resulted in higher places. It is obvious that a number of the other teams in Asia train like the Chinese by including heavy pulls and pressing movements. However, no one seems to notice how many of the men and women with large muscles in the upper extremities miss jerks. In some instances watching the competition was like going back to the time when there were three exercises. A number of lifters sported big arm, shoulder and chest muscles. Apparently, these athletes do not realize the press is gone.
General Impressions
The competition conditions were not the best for the athletes, i.e., many misses, lower than expected results, more injuries than would typically occur at a non qualifier world championships. This caused some of the coaches and athletes to point the finger at the equipment used at these championships as the culprit for so many elbow injuries. However, there were also an inordinate number of elbow and other injuries at the 1999 and 2003 worlds. Different makes of barbells were used in all three world’s championships (1999, 2003 and 2007); all had one factor in common; they were qualification competitions for the Olympics.
So, the stakes were higher and probably more athletes were entered with injuries which would otherwise have made them skip the competition. However, the main factor differentiating these qualification championships was additional pressure such as more strain (risk taking) to save a lift, especially in the snatch.
For the most part, the teams which were the most disciplined and the most focused in training did better. Most notably they were the Chinese, Korean, and North Korean women; likewise the Chinese, Bulgarian, Belarus and Cuban men come to mind as good examples. The Chinese and Korean women’s teams set the best examples in training. Their coaches watched every lift from empty bar to near maximum weight. Essentially, they forced each lifter to concentrate on every movement as if each were being performed under actual competition conditions.
By contrast some lifters were seen wearing ear phones (connected to MP3 players) for warm up and for their entire training; this effectively tuned out all of the inherent distractions with 50+ platforms occupied. However, one has to remember that these conditions are at the same time incredibly stimulating for training. Athletes get to train in a hall filled with world class lifters preparing for the most important competition of the year and, perhaps, their lives. If athletes need or want (it is hard to say which is worse) to wear head phones for training in the training hall of the world championships, they are in the wrong sport. They should go home and take up ping pong.

Typically the Chinese women approach each training lift, regardless
of weight the same: with intense concentration. Charniga photo

The author of this report spent some 40 hours in the training hall during the championships. With so many countries and athletes in attendance, there was plenty to see. For instance the Chinese 75 kg lifter Cao Lei was selected by a WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) official in the training hall. The WADA official came up to Cao’s platform with clipboard in hand and informed her and her coaches that she was selected for doping control. Cao, who was to win the 75 kg class, was allowed to finish her last exercise; then, she was removed for doping control. This took place five days before her competition.
The IWF gave no advanced notice that out of competition doping control would take place at these championships. Some were taken by surprise. For instance, an athlete from Qatar was selected. He literally ran off to hide when the official’s back was turned and, in effect, rendering his untested urine a positive. He received a two year ban for violating the doping protocol.
The Training
As already stated, the best teams to watch in training were the Chinese and Korean women. Their competition results were a direct reflection of their no nonsense and all business approach to training. On one occasion five of the Chinese women went fairly heavy in the snatch and the clean and jerk. They shared three platforms. Each lifter did her attempts under the scrutiny of the coaches while the others watched and shouted encouragement.
Each attempt at the competition lifts, regardless of the amount of weight, was approached as if it was an actual competition attempt, i.e., a psychological rehearsal for the platform with each set. The value of this “competition rehearsal” is, unfortunately, overlooked. Instead untrained observers come away with the wrong impression about the value of some of the training exercises the Chinese employ.

Deadlifts with a shrug. Charniga photo

Since many athletes in Asia attend training camps in China, one can observe the Chinese influence in their training. For example, the Koreans (North and South) did many of the same exercises the Chinese did such as heavy pulls, the Asian deadlift (a heavy pull with a shrug), various presses, and snatch pulls with a re-bending of the knees to lower the trunk to name a few.

Apparently, no one asks the question as to whether the Chinese do as well as they do because they do these exercises, or in spite of them. A good case can be made that the Chinese do well because of the intense competition rehearsal they practice, i.e., in spite of including some of these biomechanically unnecessary auxiliary exercises.

The dumbest training exercise of 2007. Charniga photo

Consider, for example, one of the Chinese exercises such as hand stand press ups. At the end of one session, the 69 kg Chinese lifter did multiple sets of multiple repetitions of this movement with her hands situated at the edge of one of the long benches in the training hall. In this manner she could descend until her head passed below the edge of the bench, i.e., to perform a full range of motion hand stand press up. The coach stood behind her to prevent her from falling off the bench.
Other than a cheap thrill for the coach, it is unlikely this exercise was of much help when it counted. She missed a crucial 3rd attempt jerk with 155 kg in competition, despite a good clean with considerable reserve. She had front squatted 180 kg in excellent form in training. So, she had plenty of strength in upper and lower body, but critical components of the jerk, skill and coordination, were lacking when they were most needed.
A negative connection between the body builder (upper extremities) physiques of the Chinese especially Shi Zhiyong (69 kg) and Li Hongli (77 kg), who had four missed jerks between them, is apparently not considered. Hongli’s missed jerks, for instance, opened the door for Stoizov to win the 77 kg class.
In the womens’ classes, to the already mentioned missed jerk by Liu Chunhong (69 kg), add Qui Hongmei’s China (58 kg) two misses and two missed jerks each by “upper extremities muscular” Russian women Maria Shainova (58 kg), Natalia Zabolotnaya, and Nadezda Yevstukhina (both 75 kg); also add to this one crucial missed jerk each by Klokov {105 kg} and Chigishev {105+} (RUS). This list does not include missed jerks by the North Korean men and women; some of the men from North Korea in particular had body builder physiques. At times one was not quite sure if the North Korean men should pose first or lift.
Of all the exercises performed in the training hall, it was interesting to see so many lifters do lifts with an empty bar. Most did empty bar lifts in warm-ups for the snatch followed by the clean and jerk and squats, i.e., the first few sets of the main exercises were always with the empty bar, regardless of how warm the athlete or what exercise preceded it.
This observation of the emphasis placed on empty bar lifts in the training of weightlifters was one of those occasions where athletes learn something “new” by remembering something they forgot. Empty bar full squat snatch and full squat clean with a full split under the bar in the jerk should be considered an important way weightlifters to develop and maintain agility, joint mobility, flexibility (dynamic), and dexterity. It is easy to forget these critical components for success in weightlifting if one focuses on the big numbers in squats and other exercises.

The Future of Weightlifting Competitions: Tactical and Psychological Skill, part 2.
This competition like others in the 1 kilo rule era reflected the gradual evolution in new tactics. An integral part of this evolution is the psychological/practical shift away from thinking in terms of 5 and zero increments between attempts to thinking and acting, accordingly, in 1, 2, 3, and more kilo increments between platform attempts, especially in the lighter weight classes for men and women.
Consider for a moment the following analogy; a weightlifter preparing to lift in competition begins with a light weight and gradually adds weight until the maximum weight is on the barbell. So, the difficulty of lifting the barbell increases along with the weight.
However, additional factors which greatly increase the difficulty of the skill required to lift a maximum weight need to be considered such as balance and movement precision.

Imagine a doubledeck tour bus loaded on the lower level only with passengers weighing 137 kg each about to drive up a steep hill (analogous conditions of the weightlifter beginning the warm up with a light weight). As the driver begins to ascend the hill (the weightlifter adds weight to the bar), the difficulty for the engine to manage the ascent increases.
However, to fully demonstrate the difficulty of the conditions for the lifter, make each beefy passenger of the tour bus, one by one, in turn (analogous to increasing the height of the center of mass for the weightlifter and barbell as a unit), go up and sit on the second level of the bus, but only on one side.

The conditions for the weightlifter, which accompany the increasing weight of the barbell, are analogous to the conditions for the bus as it ascends the hill with more and more weight relocated to the upper level, on one side of the bus. The center of gravity of the athlete- barbell system rises with the weight added to the bar like that of the bus with the weight redistribution. This situation increases the risk for the weightlifter or the bus of toppling over.
So, the difficulty of lifting is complicated not just by the necessity to generate more power to raise the increasing weight of the barbell, but the athlete’s movements must accommodate the increasing difficult conditions to preserve equilibrium. In fact, the bigger the weight relative to the athlete’s bodyweight, the greater the movement precision required to lift it.

All that being said, new guidelines for coach and athlete need to be ascertained regarding the appropriate increments for each athlete to make between attempts; this must take into account not only the athlete’s best results, but also the lifter’s bodyweight. Weight increases between attempts, which represent 5% or more of the athlete’s bodyweight, increase the likelihood the athlete will change the coordination pattern significantly in an effort to exert more force to lift the bigger weight. Many misses in competition result from this “unnecessary” alteration in coordination.

Of Wolves and Dogs Part III: The marks
Many years ago a very good friend stood in a hotel lift in the Soviet Union with two Bulgarian weightlifters. He could not help but notice the wrists of these lifters had callous marks from the constant use of straps; they were traces left not by casual three times aweek training, but by twice a day, 5+ hours of training per day, six days a week of hard, monotonous work. Marks on the wrist like these are not obvious to the casual observer; nor are they of much concern to the average male, athlete or not, as to how they affect personal appearance.
On the other hand female athletes tend to be far more concerned about their personal appearance. So, it is somewhat unusual to observe the “traces” of hard work on the female athlete’s body, and we are not talking about the changes such as larger muscles and overall tonus of the female form. We are referring to traces left by the barbell.

Cao Lei wearing tank top with welts left from the bar exposed. Charniga Photo
Wearing tank tops after their competitions, Chunhong Liu (69 kg) and Lei Cao (75 kg), both from China, made no effort to conceal the discolored welts/dents left by the barbell on their clavicles from innumerable front squats, clean and jerks, and efforts of exercises with the bar on their shoulders. They were either oblivious to these imperfections in the female form, or perhaps they were proud to display the traces that the hard work of training have left behind. In either case, the effect is the same.

Chunhong Liu (69 kg) {CHN} front squating 175 kg. Charniga photo

Cao Lei (75 kg) {CHN} preparing to do jerk drives with 180 kg. Charniga Photo

Athletes make sacrifices to be champions either in their personal lives or appearances. Anyone who could have witnessed these two (and the rest of the Chinese team) training for the competition would recognize they did not come to the world championships to compete as tourists; they came to be champions.