The 2021 World Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent

Andrew Charniga

2021 World weightlifting championships Tashkent, Uzbekistan

In a matter of days the entry list dropped from about 800 to just over 400; with several of the top teams missing. In some cases, adherence to the IWF stipulated protocols varied. However, they were strictly followed to make sure you have proper documentation from airports to the hotel. Everyone had to take the rapid antigen test on arrival at their respective hotel. The hotel also offered a PCR test with results in three hours.

Undoubtedly, the IWF protocols, not to mention the latest government restrictions in USA contributed to halving the entries. However, one has to wonder how much the delay in the election was the reason so many stayed away.

Everyone had to be tested after five days of stay; if found positive a quarantined in the hotel for 10 was the penalty. That is big a sword hanging over the head; just hoping it doesn’t happen to you. However, add the politics to further stir the pot; next thing you know, four hundred lifters drop out.

An unfortunate circumstance surrounding the this event is an * should appear after the results due, with notable exceptions, to the relatively lower level of the competitions. The women’s results were particularly low in the absence of the Chinese, North Koreans, some of the Japanese and others. The top results in the men’s classes came primarily from clashes between neighbors: Georgia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, RWF, BLR. Even with the depleted field; Asia won gold in 13 of the 20 weight classes.

There was worrisome talk about the announced exclusion of weightlifting from the Los Angeles Games. People don’t get it; the current program is boring and frequently about as fun as a funeral.

The women 

The return of the Thai lifters, especially Sukchroen (45 kg) and Khambao (49 kg) indicate this team is back and competitive again. KUO (TPE) in the 59 kg was not in top shape and showing some of the effect of an aging body. In the absence of more top lifters from Asia the scoreboard was full of reds; which was typical of the entire competition. The best lifters make more attempts.

The men

Interesting  that of the 11 or twelve lifters in the 61 kg class only one made his 3rd attempt in the clean and jerk. Since a lot were attempting 150 –  160 kg or upwards of 250% of bodyweight. A Russian back in the 60s said  220 – 225% of bodyweight is the tipping point for good technique to jerk the barbell. A plausible explanation why there are some many misses in the men’s 61 and 67 kg. They have the strength but lack the skill to jerk.

Example, a guy in 61 kg power cleaned 154, twice; couldn’t jerk it; ridiculous. Also, a lot of lifters and of course coaches don’t take into account balance, spatial awareness, in these types of arena. One lifter and coach come to the platform after intros to take selfies, i.e., not to check line of sight in all of that space. When lifters miss the coaches and lifters think they didn’t pull hard enough; not that they lost balance in all of the space in front of the platform.

One of the highlights of the men’s competition was the performance of twenty one year old Abdullah Rahmit Erwin (INA) who won the 73 kg class; after climbing from from fifth place in the snatch, to the gold, with three clean and jerks; including an outstanding 192 winning lift. His six for six performance was enough to beat Calja Briken (ALB) who missed only the decisive 190 C&J attempt. 

Figures 1 & 2. Abdullah Rahmit Erwin (INA)  and Calja Briken (ALB) both 73 kg. Charniga photos.

Bulgaria’s seventeen year old Nasar Karlos (BUL) put in the outstanding performance of the championships. His five of six good lifts including three good lifts in the clean and jerk set youth, junior and senior world records; that, in addition to becoming senior world champion at 81 kg. Athletes such as Nasar should cause a re – think of what constitutes strength in the modern era of weightlifting.

Old ideas of big results in weightlifting from the transfer of muscle power to the coordination of the classic exercises are in serious need of revision. With the likes of Nasar it is hard, if not impossible, to differentiate between strength and elasticity; especially the role of elasticity in resistance to the body’s movements in the snatch and the clean and jerk. Furthermore, still picture or slow motion analysis of what is believed to be good technique dismiss bent arms in pull (figures 3 &4) and such out of hand; without taking into account the total movement of energy involved in lifting a heavy barbell.

Figures 3 & 4. Nasar Karlos (BUL). Charniga photos.

The rejuvenation of weightlifting factor was no more evident than in the +109 kg class. Here, three stages of a weightlifter’s body were pitted from oldest – strongest to youngest most pliable: Nurudinov (UZB) – Martirosyan (ARM) – Djurayev (UZB). An unfortunate decisive factor of the older -stronger vs younger more elastic was settled before it really had a chance to begin when both Nurudinov and Martirosyan were both turned down for ‘elbow flicker’. 

Figures 5 – 7. Nurudinov Ruslan (UZB) – Martirosyan Simon (ARM) – Djurayev Akbar (UZB). Charniga photos.

The ‘elbow flicker’ no lifts effectively closed the door on what would have been a very tight competition. The outcome may have still been the same with a Djuraev victory; but, it would have been much harder to come by.

It is necessary to re – think of weightlifting as far as the training and technique of the classic exercises in terms of youth strength, junior strength and mature strength. Instead of muscle mass, fiber types and the like; weightlifting strength should be viewed in terms of least resistance to movement/elastic strength (Youth) to rising resistance of movement/less elasticity (junior strength); with increasing resistance to movement/even less elasticity in mature strength.

The three medalists in the 109 class can roughly fall into those three categories of strength in this order: Djuraev (UZB) – Martirosyan (ARM) and Nurudinov (UZB). In the case of both Martirosyan (ARM) and Nurudinov (UZB) difficulty locking elbows in the snatch; where both were turned down for press out; effectively settled the competition. In both instances, the focus would be on the elbow joints as the problem; not the entirety of the weightlifter barbell system; which obscures the actual dynamic, i.e., difficulty fixing the barbell with more resistance from the body as a whole – knees, hips, ankles. shoulders. That is to say the aging body moves with less efficiency, more internal resistance as the weightlifter continues to develop absolute strength from squat and pulls, etc. Consequently, locking the elbows in snatch or even jerk becomes more difficult over time; not necessarily a manifestation of some physical defect.

This concept is another of the numerous reasons the ‘elbow flicker’ rule in weightlifting needs to be eliminated.  

Lasha Talakhadze’s all world records gold +109 kg was especially noteworthy in that the first and only legacy record of 1988 in the clean and jerk was finally exceeded. OM (PRK) briefly jerked 172 kg at the 2018 Asian Games to exceed the record of 171 set in 1987; before losing control of the oscillating barbell. That attempt had been as close as anyone has come to the results from the era of testing which came into being following the 1988 Olympics.

The fact that Taranenko’s 266; set in1988; took 33 years to exceed by a mere 1 kg allows Talakhadze Lasha (GEO) to join OM (PRK) the greatest in the clean and jerk in the history of the sport; as having lifted the biggest weight in history. However, it should be pointed out Talakhadze reportedly weighed a little in excess of 180 kg. Taranenko weighed about 147 kg. His 266 was 181% of bodyweight. It took weightlifting sport 33 years for an athlete of 180+ to raise 148% of bodyweight. This is not to diminish Talakhadze’s fantastic achievement; because he has repeatedly demolished the snatch mark of those days including the 225 kg at this competition. 


Figures 8 & 9. Talakhadze Lasha (GEO) setting world records in snatch and clean and jerk with 225 kg and 267 kg respectively. Charniga photos.

Soviet era (A.S. Medvedyev, 1995) calculations projecting upwards of 22 – years would be needed to surpass the 1988 records were way too optimistic. A number of the snatch records have been breached over that time but until now, not one C&J; the exercise where results are most sensitive to performance enhancing substances. 

So, one should not lose sight of the fact of the athletic skill involved in weightlifting. As impressive as a 267 kg c&j is; the skill to lift 148% of bodyeight pales in comparison to a weightlifter lifting three times bodyweight; especially in the example of OM who has done this so many times in the modern era; without the benefit of adding body mass; in fact losing a a kilo in 2019 when he lifted 166 kg. 

All the film one may get to see of Lasha Talakhadze is of him lifting; squats, pulls, snatch and so forth. Most supers in weightlifting history waddle from the heels when they walk; even Alexeyev. In sneakers, Talakhadze walks with a bounce to the toes; a nimble, coordinated athlete; in spite of his 180 kg mass. Most supers waddle as to make one wonder: is he an athlete or just a big blob with muscles? Only a uniquely coordinated athlete like Talakhadze could snatch 225 kg with such ease and reliability.

One final observation:

However, counterintuitive it may sound, many lifters who make a concerted effort to pull bar close to waist and chest have difficulty with balance  and probably  inflict more stress on lumbar spine. It is unlikely anyone stops to wonder how much effort expended ‘keeping the bar close’ is deflected from actually lifting the weight; especially moving the body.?