The 2008 European Weightlifting Championships

Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy
The 2008 European Weightlifting Championships
April 13 – 20, 2008
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
Sportivny Press©

The 2008 European Championships took place in the resort town of Lignano-Sabbiadoro, Italy on the grounds of the Ge Tur sport complex. There were an unusually large number of athletes participating. This event is a continental championships; consequently, it served as a final qualification for the Beijing Olympiad. Hence the larger than usual number of entries.

The European Weightlifting Federation election of officers preceded the competitions. Two-time Olympic gold medalist from Poland Waldemar Bazanowski (POL) stepped down after serving eight years. With the election of his successor Antonio Urso and the unopposed reelection of the general secretary Marino Casadei Ercolani and his assistant Fabiano Blasutig, all of the principal officials are now from Italy.

The Results
There were many misses at this championships. Generally, you can rank the top teams even before doing the official calculations by their success ratio of attempts. The success ratio in the clean and jerk and the number of athletes on a given team who make all three attempts in the clean and jerk are also consistent indicators of a team’s performance.

Looking at the results of the team placing in table 1, you can see the Russian team placed first. This team had the highest success rate in the clean and jerk and the most athletes who succeeded with all three attempts in the clean and jerk. Furthermore, none of the Russians bombed out.

In general since the top teams usually make more of their attempts, more clean and jerks and had fewer bomb outs, it is easy to see that the top six teams of last year’s championships performed better according to these indicators (see table 2).

Table 1. Classification of Men’s Teams 2008 European Chps.

Team & Place # athletes %Snatch
Success %C&J
Success Overall Rate #Lifters
(3) C&J Bomb outs
1. Russia 8 50% 75% 63% 3 0
2. France 8 46% 58% 52% 2 0
3. Azerbaijan 8 46% 42% 44% 0 1
4. Armenia 8 58% 42% 50% 1 2
5. Poland 8 46% 38% 42% 1 2
6. Albania 8 54% 63% 59% 3 0
Mean 50% 53% 51.6% 10 5
Table 2. Classification of Men’s Teams 2007 European Championships.
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
Overall 70% 57% 64% 6 0
Table 3. Classification of Women’s Teams 2008 European Championships

Team & Place # athletes %Snatch
Success %C&J
Success Overall Rate #Lifters
(3) C&J Bomb outs
1. Russia 7 57% 62% 60% 2 0
2. Poland 7 57% 52% 55% 2 2
3. Bulgaria 6 72% 67% 69% 1 0
4. Ukraine 7 90% 57% 74% 1 0
5. Armenia 7 52% 71% 62% 2 1
6. Turkey 7 52% 62% 57% 1 0
Overall 63% 62% 63% 9 3

One possible explanation for the poor results this year can be the fact that a number of the top lifters were not present. The top lifters generally have a higher success ratio of platform attempts. Another possible explanation and an ongoing problem in the sport is that many of the lifters do not compete often enough. Many lifts were up easily (in the snatch for instance) but lost forward. The lifters simply seemed to have trouble coordinating their movements with the barbell on a raised stage and in the glare of TV lights. A simple solution would seem to be frequent practice of competition conditions.

There seemed to be  a  lot of lifts lost forward like Kolev’s (BUL) missed snatch Charniga Photo

General Impressions

One Step Forward Two Steps Backward
One would not normally make a connection between a clear complexion and lower results in weightlifting but sometimes that appears to be the case. A few years back several athletes came to these championships and the worlds championships of those years with what could best be describe as “needle point” acne covering all exposed skin. This dermal condition appeared as though those afflicted had suffered innumerable pin picks.

The connection between this odd dermatitis and results stems from the fact that two of those whom have been observed to have this affliction sat out two years for positive doping tests. The third, a young professional female, who competed in Lignano, performed with a clear complexion (arms and legs included) with lower results than two years ago in Poland.

Presumably there are many, but there is one peculiar, unforeseen side effect of the ever more sophisticated state of testing for performance enhancing substances. For instance, when an athlete makes big lifts and has supposedly done so with the aid of undetected banned performance enhancing substances, the successful result causes an optical illusion. You are so impressed by the big weight lifted that you are blinded a bit as to the quality of the technique.

On the other hand, when this same athlete, now devoid of these substances misses a smaller weight than was achieved previously, the poor biomechanics are not only obvious, but magnified. The significance of performing with and without these substances is clear. The athlete simply does not have the brute strength to lift the big weights. Previously, the big weights went up despite poor biomechanics.

Now, however, it is obvious there has been no improvement in technique to compensate for the obvious lack of power. The observer is no longer blinded by the athlete’s poor technique.

Two more steps backward

Even before the elimination of the press some, Soviet weightlifting experts of the triathlon era determined that lifters performed better in the snatch and clean and jerk if the muscles of the upper extremities were not developed as much as they were during the press era. Consequently, significant upper body strength would not be needed in the two lift era.

The correctness of this assumption was confirmed by the appearance in the 80s and successful dominance of the somewhat “pear shaped” lifter, most notably from Bulgaria. That was a step forward in the modern preparation of weightlifters.

However, at the present time there seems to be a movement to take two steps backward. Most of the Russian lifters have upper body development which is somewhat out of proportion to the lower extremities; it resembles a sort of powerlifting/Olympic lifting hybrid physique. Some are reminiscent of the physiques of the triathlon era (see also the report on the 2007 world championships).

Russian 85 kg Plovnikov sporting big arms pulls on 205 kg Charniga Photo

Beretsov (RUS) was one of these lifters who seemed to have more muscle in his upper extremities than needed. He was lucky to make his opener in the snatch with 190 kg on his third try, suffering a thigh injury in the process. However, he decided to continue. He had his thigh wrapped with tape and applied some cream to the affected area to help with the pain.

Obviously in pain and wary of making the injury worse, he tried to clean his first two attempts at 220 kg by receiving the barbell with an excessively forward leaning trunk. This didn’t work. The barbell fell forward both times. On his third attempt he simply blocked out the pain. Deciding to die on his sword, he made the lift for first place and had to be assisted off the platform.
Déjà Vu All Over Again: The psychological struggle to win one more Olympic medal

At the 2000 Europeans in Sofia, Bulgaria three time Olympic gold medalist Naim Suleymonoglu competed in preparation for a try at a fourth gold medal in Sydney. At the 2004 Europeans in Kiev it was Pyros Dimas’ turn to prepare for a fourth gold in Athens, as well as Ronny Weller tuning up for a shot at a fifth medal.

At the 2000 Europeans it was obvious to this observer that although Naim (arguably, the greatest lifter in the history of the sport) still had the body of a champion, but the mental focus, an absolute necessity, was lacking. The same can be said of both Dimas and Weller at the 2004 Europeans.

Unfortunately, Halil Mutlu (TUR) appeared to have this same disease of age at these championships, afflicting the mind more than the body. It was to say, the least, depressing for any weightlifting fan to witness Mutlu barely make his opening weight in the snatch of 120 kg on his third attempt. He failed to clean his opener of 149 kg in the clean and jerk. He succeeded on his second with this weight, but it was obviously a maximum as it was some 19 kg below his world record (the last triple bodyweight lift) of 168 kg.

Ano,ther defending Olympic champion from Turkey, Taner Sagir, had his problems as well. Unable to muscle the barbell overhead as in the past, he missed all of his snatches forward. He has always had a forward barbell trajectory, but you tend not to notice it as much when he makes the lift. You are amazed that a man of his slight (upper body) physique could lift such a weight and fail to focus on the flaws in his biomechanics.

For him, the situation did not improve for the clean and jerk. The pull phase of his first clean was slow; he appeared to be lifting in a sand box. He missed his second attempt clean and jerk on time. The pulling phase was so slow on the third attempt that a slow motion video replay of the attempt would have frozen the action.

 Mathias Steiner (GER) warming up with chalk mark to indicate the starting point of his feet Charniga Photo

Of Wolves and Dogs: Part Two

The man of the meeting was obviously Tigran Martirosan (ARM). He went six for six breaking all of the junior world records. His technique was excellent. However, these days you would like to wait a few weeks for all of the competition protocols to be completed before making such a definitive statement.

Typically the tightest competitions are in the middle weight classes. This year was different. The best fighting took place in the +105 kg class. Victor Shcherbatis of Latvia made three clean and jerks as did the next two medalists Steiner (GER) and Chigishev (RUS). Trailing Matthius Steiner by 5 kg in the snatch and with a heavier bodyweight, Shcherbatis clean and jerked 252 on his third and the final attempt of the championships to win by one kilo. The two men, whose combined bodyweights were 284 kg were separated by one kg in total.

 Vysniaukas (LIT) celebrates 220 kg C& J. Charniga Photo

Shcherbatis (LAT) “celebrates” his winning 252 kg. Charniga Photo

There was some rather excessive celebrations in the camp of Shcherbatis’ competitors when he missed his snatches with 200 and 201. This was broadcasted, inadvertently, to the audience on the monitor screen of the warm up room. However, the consummate and experienced, professional Shcherbatis did not let this affect his focus on the task at hand. He had the last laugh and the opportunity to celebrate in a similar manner, but he was so exhausted by the 252 kg, he stood bent over on the platform for some time to catch his breath before walking off.