Team China Withdraws From 2024 Asian Weightlifting Championships

The Chinese weightlifting team — the world’s most dominant contingent in the sport — has abandoned one of its two remaining 2024 Paris Olympic Games qualification opportunities by withdrawing from the upcoming 2024 Asian Weightlifting Championships (AWC).

The 2024 AWC will be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from Feb. 3 to 10. It is one of the final remaining International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) competitions athletes can attend to qualify for Paris.

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A post shared by ShenZhen Weightlifting (@shenzhenweightlifting)

[Related: The Weightlifting Qualification Process for the Paris 2024 Olympics]

While China certainly retains enough high-performing athletes to send a stronger team to Paris than any other nation, forfeiting an appearance at a continental championships may affect their placings across the IWF’s leaderboards and, consequently, which athletes will be selected to travel to Paris this summer. 

What It Means

The Chinese weightlifting team was on the list of preliminary entries for Tashkent but has indicated that they will instead focus on the final Olympic qualifying event, the 2024 IWF World Cup. The Cup occurs from March 31 to April 11, 2024, in Phuket, Thailand. 

At the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships, China won more overall gold medals than any other country (including seven more than the second-placed host nation, South Korea). They have been the top performer in weightlifting at every Olympic Games in the 21st century.

The Chinese weightlifting team’s absence from Tashkent will allow other countries to excel. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or PRK), which withdrew from IWF-sanctioned events in 2019 only to return in force in 2023, is likely to fill the gaps on the podium left by Team China.

[Related: The 10 Best Weightlifters of 2023]

Team DPRK finished ahead of China (by overall medal count) at the 2023 Asian Games in October and at the 2023 IWF Grand Prix II in December. However, due to their aforementioned absence, Team DPRK is ineligible to attend Paris. 

Beyond North Korea, athletes from the Asian region will have one of their final chances to climb the IWF’s top-10 leaderboard, the primary metric that determines selection for the upcoming Olympics. Currently, China leads all five women’s Games weight classes and three men’s.

Who Benefits? 

Despite their absence, it is unlikely that the events of the upcoming AWC will alter China’s plans significantly, at least regarding their female athletes. Chinese women collectively lead their nearest challengers by 74 kilograms altogether. There is not the same certainty for the men.

China may only send three male weightlifters (and three women) to compete in Paris. Presently, 61-kilogram Li Fabin and 102-kilogram Liu Huanhua are their strongest contenders. 89-kilogram duo Li Dayin and Tian Tao are likely to battle for the final slot, but they face stiff competition from:

Karlos Nasar (BUL) | world record holder in the clean & jerk

Yeison Lopez (COL) | multi Youth & Junior World Champion

Keydomar Vallenilla-Sanchez (VEN) | Tokyo 2020 silver medalist

Antonino Pizzolato (ITA) | multi-European Champion & former world record holder

All of these lifters have opportunities to reach the top of the 89-kilo leaderboard in the coming months. 

73-kilogram two-time Olympic Champion Shi Zhiyong also faces an uphill battle. An ongoing back injury had sidelined Zhiyong from competition for 862 days. His performance at the Grand Prix II last month was 24 kilograms below his best, and he declined his last two clean & jerks because he was in pain.

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A post shared by Shi Zhiyong (@shi_zhi_yong)

Not only does Zhiyong have to show gold-medal potential in the final qualifier, but he must also persuade the Team China selectors that he is a better final option for Paris than either 89-kilogram athlete.

What About Team USA? 

The events of the 2024 AWC may affect the Americans’ placings in the overall leaderboard. Overtaking Chinese athletes is a big ask, but lifters like Hampton Morris (61 kilograms), Olivia Reeves (71 kilograms), and Mary Theisen-Lappen (+87 kilograms) may inadvertently benefit from China’s absence in Tashkent. 

Team USA will partake in the upcoming European Weightlifting Championships (EWC) in Sofia, Bulgaria, rather than attend this year’s Pan American Championships due to safety concerns.

Morris is 22 kilograms behind 61-kilo leader Li Fabin of China but will compete before Fabin at Europeans in February and may make it up into the top four in that class.

Reeves is up 17 kilograms in the Total compared to 2022. That momentum may help her inch closer to the top slot held by China’s Liao Guifang.

Theisen-Lappen has overtaken teammate Sarah Robles, who will not lift at the EWC. Theisen-Lappen currently sits in fourth place overall in the women’s super-heavyweights. 

Editor’s Note: Brian Oliver is an independent correspondent for BarBend. The views and opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect his own. Oliver is not directly affiliated with any of BarBend’s existing media partnerships.

Featured Image: William Johnson / @barbellstories

The post Team China Withdraws From 2024 Asian Weightlifting Championships appeared first on BarBend.


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