2021 EUROPEAN WEIGHTLIFTING Championships: Impressions

Andrew Charniga


Figures 1 & 2: Record lifts do not necessarily fit neatly into some linear playbook. Widely accepted conceptions of balance and mechanical efficiency applied to the human body with 206 bones and 600+ muscles can be meaningless without taking into account redundancy; large and excess degrees of freedom of movement.  

There has been and continues to be considerable interest in the diverging fortunes of  the Asia and European weightlifting. Long the dominate power in the sport Europe’s preeminent place has continued to erode as Asia’s fortunes continue to rise. Producing top class female weightlifters especially in the lighter weight classes; has been particularly challenging.  

With that thought in mind here what follows are some hopefully constructive observations.

It should go without saying the lifters who make the most attempts do better. However, as informative as is a six for six performance; a 3rd attempt success rate in both exercises may be just as informative; if not more so.

There can many factors either directly or indirectly affecting the 3rd attempt success rate but under the current state of the sport’s evolution, the inept, inefficient competition protocols; are in dire need of radical alterations.

As to how the coaches and athletes adhere to them is something that is probably overlooked by the those whom it should concern the most: the athletes and coaches. 

Considerable research has been devoted to effective warm up protocols to prepare the lifter for the best performance on the platform. Essentially anything that delays or otherwise interrupts the flow of the lifter’s warm up such as the mandatory one kg increment between 1st and 2nd and 3rd attempts is a complete waste of time. Virtually no one accepts this mandatory 1 kg jump; time is wasted loading and unloading the bar. Calling the wrong lifter to the platform; miss – loading the barbell even though there are nine officials watching; arm lock arguments and so on all can contribute to more misses in competitions.

Another rule many coaches abuse is the allowable multiple changes of weight for each attempt in each exercise. In most cases multiple changes of weight are an indication the coach is incapable of choosing the correct weight for his/her athlete. Pick a weight the athlete can lift without adding to the distractions already inherent to competition.

New methodologies; not more politics are in order. It should come as no surprise sophisticated training methodologies, weightlifting biomechanics and so forth are a product of the USSR and eastern Europe.

After listening to some of the silly comments of the UK announcers from Eurosport online; it is all the more obvious why western Europe is still light years behind in weightlifting knowledge. You can’t speak of a ‘level playing field’ if your weightlifting expertise is from a clueless perspective. Example: The foot of one female lifter slid out from under her in the snatch. The comment: “no glut activation at the bottom … hence sliding of feet… otherwise that wouldn’t have happened”.

I see, tighten your butt at the bottom of the squat. After all, that is where the term ‘tight ass’ comes from doesn’t it?

The women

Generally most people speak of balance in the act of lifting; in the squat position, in the starting position for the jerk, and so forth. However, balance before lifting from the floor isn’t given as much attention. That is why you see so many lifters take very little time over the bar to ‘feel’ their position in space before lifting from the floor.

This is all the more critical given the size of the stage and all of the open space in front of the athlete’s line of sight. In all probability many lifts with otherwise accessible weights are lost because the lifter ‘cannot find the barbell’ in the squat position of snatch and even the clean. A lot of lifters at this championships; especially the females; needed to take more time over the barbell getting spatial awareness of their surroundings before beginning to lift. Many unnecessary misses could be avoided.

One aspect of the preparation of female lifters for the competition exercises involves coaches and athletes alike are predisposed to instill aggressiveness as a prerequisite to lifting heavy weights. This is probably not a good idea as aggressive emotions tend to produce excessive muscle tension; counterproductive to getting maximal efficiency from the main lifting muscles. 

That being said European female lifters tend to be slower than Asian lifters with the caveat they do not benefit from a speed of movement boost from flexibility like the Asian women do. In many cases male and female lifters alike suffer the negative effects of too much power snatch and power clean; especially doing the power versions in the competition warm up.

For instance, in the W87 kg class nine of nine 1st attempt snatches were successful; whereas only two of nine 3rd attempts were successful. In many cases doing power snatch in the warm up series can have a negative effect on the upcoming accessible 3rd attempt weights. The lifter negatively impacts the descent under the barbell by performing ‘stopping at half way’ squatting. Instead of dropping fast into the low squat without unduly resisting one’s motion, the lifter performs ‘European style sticky squats’ excessively resisting the descent, i.e., which affects not only the depth of the squat under the barbell; but, the trajectory of the barbell towards the athlete in the descent as well. 

The European women especially in the lighter weight classes tended to be too slow and mechanical. However, two athletes at these championships could serve as models for improvement of the many. Sarah Davies exhibited modern technique with very fast descent in both snatch and clean. She exemplified how one should perform the classic exercises with a fast switching of directions coupled with a fast non – ‘sticky’ descent.

The other athlete who moved her body fast to lift the biggest weights was Emily Campbell. A former thrower, her speed of movement may be a positive carry over from her throwing days. In throwing, the implement is very light; consequently, to accelerate it the thrower has to move the body very fast to get the greatest distance. i.e., the same skill necessary for weightlifting except for the opposite reason: a smaller body mass moving the significantly bigger mass of barbell.

The men: Bulgaria

A positive (fingers are crossed) was the Bulgarian men’s team especially the phenomenal performance of the sixteen year old Karlos Nasar. Tall, lean lifters, with long extremities like Nasar were not supposed to have the leverage to do weightlifting. However, modern technique involves coordinating speed of movement, elasticity and skill all of which develop faster in the young lifter. Recall V. Khristov (110 kg BUL) attempting to break the C & J record of Alexeyev from the 110 kg class at the 1975 WWC; even though he was some 50 kg lighter and 15 years younger.

The best and strangest individual class was the men’s 67. Eight of the 10 A session lifters went 3 for 3 in the snatch. Then, eight of ten missed the 3rd attempt clean and jerk. Go figure.

More than anything the sport needs positive reinforcement from all concerned. Some of the obtuse comments from the Eurosport announcers relative to  the problems of doping; pointing an accusing finger at Eastern European nations are not in that vein.

It is easy to forget, or, even fail to take into account the social economic conditions of present. The re – building of western post war Europe was greatly facilitated with someone else’s money. Post war democratic institutions flourished, under a nuclear umbrella; likewise paid for by someone else. 

By way of contrast, Eastern Europe struggled to re – build; democratic institutions and free market economies were forbidden. For example, Bob Hoffman noted in his report of the 1959 WWC of Warsaw after an Eastern European team other than the USSR (Poland) placed ahead of the USA that there were still piles of rubble in the city left over from World War II. 

Positive reinforcement of our sport should be the order of the day not negative politics. Consider pointing out to the uniformed how weightlifters should be injured in weightlifting but are not (see photos); weightlifting is a dynamic, complex, safe sport because of training fast large amplitude of movement exercises. 

Russian weightlifter should be injured but is not, turning ankle with barbell overhead.