The 2023 European Championships in Yerevan

Andrew Charniga

Report of 2023 European Championships in Yerevan, Armenia

April 19, 2023

The competition venue and overall organization of the 2023 European Weightlifting Championships will rate as one of the finest ever. The host country did an excellent job with many helpful volunteers ensuring a smooth and efficiently run competitions.

Figure 1. Karlos Naser  set a world record in Bogota because of or despite the thin air and jet lag? He likewise re – wrote the record book in Yerevan. Charniga photo.

As nice as the organization and venue were; the competitions themselves left a lot to be desired. The red menace (excessive missed attempts) of the championships in Bogota was alive and well in Yerevan; this against the backdrop of the absence of three top tier teams: Azerbaijan, Russia, Belarus. There were not as many misses; in no small part due to less competitive depth in classes; minimal jet lag and relatively close to home venue.

The competition hall may have the most impressive feature of this competition; a first rate set up. A great back round for the platform; a huge scoreboard which made it very easy to follow the action. Built in Soviet times in 1983. The 1983 WWC were scheduled for Yerevan; subsequently switched to Moscow instead.

Of all the negatives connected with imperiling weightlifting’s place in the Olympic program one might cite; excessive failed attempts on the competition platform should rank near the top of the list.

The weightlifting spectacle has and is becoming an ever depressing exercise in futility. The +109 class was a prime example. Of a possible nine 3rd attempts in the C & J; only one was a successful lift; with four misses and four passed third lifts. This was the final curtain of what is traditionally the best class of the European championships.

This class has traditionally been the premier class of the European championships. The biggest, strongest guys lift the biggest weights; with the guy who lifts the biggest weight usually the world’s strongest man as well. For the most part, with the exception of the three medalists; the +109 lifters rewarded a sold out audience of 8,000 a rather mundane, abbreviated (retired 3rd attempts) competition; excessive missed lifts and only one good 3rd attempt in the C&J. The snatch results in this class were not much better with 14 out 27 attempts missed lifts.

The results of the other classes with substantially less depth of talent likewise were afflicted the red menace of excessive missed lifts. In Bogota, where the South American countries Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador plus the Asian countries China, Vietnam and others provided an atmosphere of intense competition; the thin air was frequently cited the reason for poor performances: mostly from teams from the affluent European countries. Even though this excuse is groundless; those who give it voice should be ashamed. See report of 2022 World Championships (

It is unfortunate for weightlifting sport groundless excuses for failure persist. For instance, according to a Mr. quote journalist (from Inside the Games) one of the aforementioned affluent teams was prepared in Yerevan to make up for the team’s poor performance in Bogota; purportedly caused by “altitude sickness”.  Before repeating this preposterous excuse for all the rojos; Mr. Quote should have consulted a map: the competitions in Bogota were not held at a base camp on the summit of Mt. Everest.

It hurts weightlifting sport to perpetrate ignorance. It wasn’t my fault; not the dumb pre – competition training exercises; lack of discipline, digital distractions, and so forth. It was existential: thin air:

Altitude sickness will not be a problem at the Karen Demirchyan Complex, though, as it was when three Italians bombed out along with many others in the first Olympic qualifier in Colombia four months ago.”

For someone like the author of the above, a Mr. quote, severely lacking in knowledge, any heuristic of sport training; composing something of substance is elusive at best. Merely producing a series of quotes cannot hide a dearth of knowledge, of common sense.  Anyone can say “he said, she said” and lay claim to be a journalist. Unfortunately, a quote journalist, is able to express absurdities as truth; on the assumption those who are in earshot are gullible.

Maybe it was the Lavash?

The fact of the matter was the aforementioned team did not fare much better in Yerevan: under substantially better circumstances.

The difference between Bogota and Yerevan was obvious. In Yerevan, the Europeans, especially from the more affluent countries were much closer to home as well as their time zone. They are the ones more disposed to blame the air in Bogota. In Yerevan they were the big fish in their little pond; all the more so with the Russians,  Belarus and Azerbaijan absent.

At the worlds they were just regular fish in a much bigger pond. Hence, subject to the negative effect of the ‘air’: in the big time with the Asians and the South Americans. The big pond definitely thins the air for the psychologically marginal; especially those who rely on headphones and ear buds for concentration.

Another factor that disses excuses for misses is that many of the Europeans are professionals. Weightlifting is their day job. For instance, the Germans and Italians are either police or in the military; with no significant job duties. Some teams have a residency program. So, job (full time paid weightlifter) center to train; and, housing. Not bad.

There is now talk again just as in Bogota of a 500 kg total. As much as that would be a big positive for weightlifting. It is not quite that easy. A functional understanding of weightlifting in particular and sport in general is a prerequisite to speak of such a milestone. Muscles just don’t get stronger and stronger; without gain in body mass; which makes those self same muscles work harder to move extra body mass along with bigger and bigger weights.

With the gain in mass follows the gain in girth and with it the difficulty of lowering the body into a low squat – ultimately a counterproductive shift.

Furthermore, one of the factors (and there are many) the IWF does not consider is the negative impact the competition protocols have on the psychology of successful attempts on the competition platform. This sport must raise the success rate to make it attractive to an audience; live or video. 

At the present weightlifting is become ‘a try to lift it’, with a predominance of failed attempts.

Known Unkowns

A bizarre black out,  – the 2nd in successive days is an example. There is so much that is unknown about this sport; yet so many, not only, don’t know what they think they know; they sure as hell don’t know what they don’t know. A simpleton explanation is the bar was pressing on the carotid; as virtually all occur in the jerk; possible; but hardly, comprehensive: powerlifters pass out all time with no bar on neck; and, this happens in other sports as well.

For weightlifting, it was a doozy of a Valsalva (blackout) episode. Never seen that before. You could see panic on the faces of the medical people on duty. What in hell just happened?

YouTube videos of powerlifters throwing up in the midst of a prolonged strain at deadlift (wearing tight suits, belt and wraps) are common; but, the relatively brief period of strain, by comparison, of weightlifting – no way. Another lifter in a lighter weight class fell like a rock in water, earlier in the week.

One thing is for certain, the doctors on duty rarely, if ever check pulse. With the exception of the Indonesian girl, who suffered a bizarre incidence of cardiac arrest at the 2012 Asian chps; yet to see the doctor on duty check the athlete’s pulse under these circumstances. Hint: hearts can stop beating.

By the time the two doctors who were on duty in 2012 got around to checking the pulse; her (the Indonesian girl) pupils were already dilated and they (the doctors) had already wet their pants. What made that incident bizarre? Besides, a brief; yet nonetheless, visit to the other side? She was rushed to hospital. Released that night. The very next day; she was training with the team doing the same ‘drop dead’ inducing classic exercises! This competition was in April 2012. She competed in London at the Olympics in August. She placed 5th or 6th. However, she moved up to a retrospective medal after the re – test disqualified two of the medalists.

True story; no embellishments.

 The IWF should re – think and ultimately alter the time protocols.

An obscure doctoral dissertation and subsequent article in the Soviet weightlifting journal Tribuna Masterov circa 1969, by Genov, defined what he called the fundamental phase of weightlifting: the period of concentration before lifting. Accordingly, the period of concentration is a function of the weight of the barbell and even the exercise. Based on research of European and world championships it was determined elite lifters can focus (concentrate) continuously for 40 – 70 seconds; whereas, lesser lifters can only manage half this time.

Whether those ideas are true or fixed in stone is not the issue. The pertinent issue is a finite span of time over which anyone can effectively concentrate on a specific task. The current protocols allot a lifter one minute; which is not an actual minute; to begin a lift after being called to the platform. It is not an actual minute because the lifter is not permitted to enter the stage until the clock starts.

By the time a lifter walks up a ramp or stairs; stops and chalks hands and actually steps on the platform, 15 – 20 seconds have elapsed; and, that is if he/she is at the bottom of the ramp. The time to approach, get a grasp on the bar takes another 10 or more seconds. Leaving usually 30 seconds, or even often significantly less than that; for concentration, to visualize, to relax muscles and so forth.

The brief time left to begin lifting is usually a further distraction; as most repeatedly glance at the clock to make sure they have enough time. How many lose focus just from glancing at the clock?

You only have to look at old videos of champions past (Alexseyev, Rigert, Kono, Vardanyan) to see these guys spent at least triple or more time over the bar in this period of mental focus before lifting. Rigert would close his eyes, then deliberately make his arms limp (muscles preliminarily relaxed) as he reached to get his grip on the bar.

Contrast those guys with today’s rush to grab (weightlifting’s version of smash and grab) with little or no psychological preparation. There are many ‘rush to grab and pull’ misses in competitions, this competition included; which have nothing to do with a lack of strength.

So, a logical remedy is to alter the protocols by returning to a 1.5 minute format for the lifter. This would give most at least 30 seconds to actually stand on the platform and focus. The lifter could wait for a buzzer at one minute or glance at the clock for one minute to gather and concentrate without being distracted, or hurried by performing this in 10 or so seconds. More time can be gained by placing the chalk container off the stage.

The idea that the sessions are shorter with a one minute clock is utter nonsense. The shorter time allotted for the lifters; supposedly reducing the overall time of a session; has not only been taken up by the officials; they have made it worse than lifters ever could standing over the bar concentrating for up to a minute.

For example, and, there are many examples of time wasted unnecessarily on automatic 1 kg increase, whether it is called for or not; jury stops; protests; ridiculous number of allowable changes of weight per attempt in both exercises; placing numbers on lifters. All this inefficiency creates a huge dead space which is killing the audience appeal of the sport.

Tall is Strong

Karapetyan Garik (ARM) 102 kg gold is 183 cm in height; Gasparyan Samvel (ARM) 109 kg gold is even taller; and, Talakhadze (GEO) +109  class gold, towered over the two Armenians in 2nd and 3rd. Too tall for weightlifting??


Figures: Too – tall – for – weightlifting – weightlifters: Tchakounte Dora Meiriama (FRA), Fegue Marie Josephe (FRA), Gasparyan Samvel (ARM) , Karapetyan Garik (ARM). A tall is strong trend is in effect in weightlifting. Long bones (especially shins) long muscles, long tendons are not a hindrance to high results in weightlifting despite studies of the past to the contrary. Charniga photos.

Unusually or just taller than average female lifters who medaled included Konotop Kamila (UKR), Sterckx Nina (BEL), Fegue Marie Josephe (FRA), Campbell Emily Jade (GBR). There is a trend towards successful taller athletes in weightlifting. Short stature, short extremities and big muscles are no longer prerequisite. Long muscles, long bones, especially long tendons do just fine.

A final observation. There seems to be an optical illusion of speed in the squat under the bar in the snatch exhibited by those who get carried away with muscle snatch exercise. What appears to be happening; lifters accentuate excessively, the turning over the bar in the descent under the barbell; such that the movement of the arms and shoulder girdle look faster and the flexing of the legs slower. Not a good idea. Shoulder injuries are usually second only to back injuries amongst weightlifters.

This competition confirms the cause-effect circumstances put forth for the red menace of Bogota, i.e., it constitutes a trend: training close to competitions with out of sync exercises (muscle snatch, push press, heavy squat, heavy pulls), lack of discipline, poor motor skills, digital distractions, brief time of concentration before platform attempts, the relative size of the competition ‘pond’ to the size of the fishes, and so forth.

The supers are almost always the best class of the Europeans. However,  here,  a red menace struck again; one miss after another. These guys lift more than bodyweight. However, the +109 clean and jerk record is only 148% of bodyweight; and that is the best result. The point being; however big the weight in absolute terms; the relative difficulty to lift it is less. So, a larger proportion of successful lifts is normal for the +109 guys. So, misses by supers is not a good indication. There were a lot of good lifts in the women’s +87 kg class. The caveat is few possess even adequate motor skills; and, in many cases they were lifting less or marginally greater weights than bodyweight. Hardly a challenge.

The performance of Karapetyan Andranik (ARM) is very noteworthy. This is a guy who suffered a serious injury in RIO. He has spent the intervening years struggling to regain his form. Failing to complete several competitions. In Yerevan he put in an excellent performance of five successful attempts. He was able to make two clean and Jerks with arms fully locked and barbell behind the head; something he had been unable to achieve for years.

Many want to copy L. Talakhadze’s training; especially the exercises such as muscle snatch. It is unlikely few take into account how someone of his mass and girth around the waist uses his upper extremities to force himself into a low squat. Maybe he benefits from that strength to force his belly down against his thighs. Whereas, this is not only unnecessary for lighter lifters who do not have a large waist; it could have negative effects: susceptibility to shoulder injury from cultivating a habit of disproportionate effort to pull the body down and less to flex the legs fast.