We simply can’t write about weightlifting without calling in this classic Saturday Night Live bit:
A sport that measures sheer strength at its core does indeed provide temptation to cheat. But the 30 reported doping incidents in 2009 (see PDF) are still less than the number reported in, say, cycling. These folks know the rules.
Asia is the hotbed for this sport these days. China won nine medals at home in 2008, Russia took seven, and South Korea, Kazakhstan and Belarus combined for 10.
World Championships are held in every non-Olympic year, so we have 2010 results to check out now while we await the 2011 edition in November.
But rankings in weightlifting are the most objective in any Olympic sport. They’re not based on points from various competitions. They’re based on how much weight someone lifted. Whether the athlete lifted that much weight in a World Championship or smaller competition doesn’t really matter. It’s still the same weight. Even track and field has a few variables, such as wind and temperature, that affect an athlete’s times and distances.
So we’ll make these projections really simple. The sole basis will be the 2010 rankings. And we’ll come back and re-check after the World Championships in 2011.
It’s just that simp … wait … it’s not? Each country can only nominate 10 athletes, two per event? Six men, four women.
Grrrrrr. OK, we’ll try to bear that in mind. And naturally, it’ll be relevant — China won 11 medals at Worlds.
56kg: Great — we start with two Chinese lifters, Wu Jingbiao and Olympic champion Long Qingquan. Then it’s a drop of 8kg to No. 3 Cha Kum Chol of North Korea and another 9kg to Jadi Setiadi of Indonesia. Then it’s Uzbekistan, China (again), Cuba, Tunisia.
2008: Long Qingquan (China), Hoang Anh Tuan (Vietnam), Eko Yuli Irawan (Indonesia)
Projection: China, China, North Korea
Top Americans: Darren Barnes is 100th at age 17.
62kg: A tight 1-2 between China’s Zhang Jie and North Korea’s Kim Un Guk, then a drop to Turkey’s Erol Bilgin and Indonesia’s Eko Yuli Irawan. Next: South Korea, Chinese Taipei, China (again), Romania.
2008: Zhang Xiangxiang (China), Diego Fernando Salazar (Colombia), Triyatno (Indonesia)
Projection: China, North Korea, Turkey
Top Americans: Alex Lee is 51st.
69kg: Shifting to Europe now. After the usual Chinese leader (2008 gold medalist Liao Hui, ahead in the rankings by 18kg), it’s Romania’s 2-3 combo of Martin Razvan and Ninel Miculescu. Then Turkey, Russia, Russia, China.
2008: Liao Hui (China), Vencelas Dabaya (France), Tigran Gevorg Martirosyan (Armenia)
Projection: China, Romania, Romania
Top Americans: Not in top 150
77kg: Finally a non-Chinese lifter in the top spot — it’s Armenia’s Tigran Gevorg Martirosyan, bronze medalist one class lower in 2008, just ahead of China’s Lu Xiaojun. They’re 17kg and 14kg ahead of Egypt’s Tarek Yahia, then it’s a tight bunch with Iran, Tunisia, Poland, Albania and North Korea.
2008: Sa Jae-Hyouk (South Korea), Li Hongli (China), Gevorg Davtyan (Armenia)
Projection: Armenia, China, Egypt
Top Americans: Chad Vaughn is 38th.
85kg: The top lifters haven’t pulled away quite as far in this class. The top three of Poland’s Adrian Zielinski, Russia’s Aleksey Yufkin and Belarus’s Siarhei Lahun are just ahead of 2008 gold medalist Lu Yong. Then it’s Cuba, Uzbekistan, Russia (again), South Korea, China (again) and Armenia.
2008: Lu Yong (China), Andrei Rybakou (Belarus), Tigran Vardan Martirosyan (Armenia)
Projection: Poland, Russia, Belarus
Top Americans: Kendrick Farris is 17th, just 15kg away from third. (Easy for me to say, of course — I’m not lifting anything.)
94kg: Looking like a safe bet China will skip this weight class. Once again, we have three lifters (Russia’s Alexandr Ivanov, Ukraine’s Artem Ivanov, Romania’s Valeriu Calancea) just ahead of the 2008 gold medalist, Ilya Ilin of Kazakhstan. The two Ivanovs are 5kg clear of the rest. Next: Iran, Russia, Poland.
2008: Ilya Ilin (Kazakhstan), Szymon Kołecki (Poland), Khadjimourad Akkayev (Russia)
Projection: Russia, Ukraine, Romania
Top Americans: Philip Sabatini is 67th
105kg: It’s a tie for first between Poland’s Marcin Dolega and Russian silver medalist Dmitry Klokov, then a 5kg drop to Russia’s Vladimir Smorchkov and another 6kg to another Russian and another Pole. Then our first Chinese lifter and someone from Uzbekistan.
2008: Andrei Aramnau (Belarus), Dmitry Klokov (Russia), Dmitry Lapikov (Russia)
Projection: Poland, Russia, Russia
Top Americans: Donald Shankle is 36th
105+kg: Weighing in at 162.01kg (357 pounds) at Worlds, Iran’s Behdad Salimkordasiabi recorded a snatch of 208kg (458 1/2 pounds) and a clean and jerk of 245kg (540). Reinforce the stage. He’s a total of 13kg ahead of a three-way tie for second between Russia’s Evgeny Chigishev, Germany’s Matthias Steiner and Ukraine’s Artem Udachyn. Body weight is the tiebreaker, so the hefty Udachyn is ranked fourth behind the two 2008 medalists. Then it’s Armenia, South Korea, Iran (again), Germany (again).
2008: Matthias Steiner (Germany), Evgeny Chigishev (Russia), Viktors Ščerbatihs (Latvia)
Projection: Iran, Germany, Ukraine
Top Americans: Patrick Judge is 24th; Collin Ito is 47th.
So that’s five from China, four from Russia, three from Romania and no more than two from anywhere else. So far, so good.
48kg: Four lifters from two countries stand out — Nurcan Taylan (Turkey), Wang Mingjuan (China), Sibel Özkan (Turkey) and Tian Yuan (China). Well back: Thailand, Chinese Taipei (bronze medalist Chen Wei-ling), China (again), Thailand (again).
2008: Chen Xiexia (China), Sibel Özkan (Turkey), Chen Wei-ling (Chinese Taipei)
Projection: Turkey, China, Turkey
Top Americans: Kelly Rexroad is 34th
53kg: The top two are Chinese, with Li Peng far ahead of Chen Xiaoting. Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo is third, ahead of gold medalist and the bane of headline writers everywhere, Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon. Then it’s Turkey, China, Dominican Republic.
2008: Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon (Thailand), Yoon Jin-Hee (South Korea), Nastassia Novikava (Belarus)
Projection: China, Kazakhstan, Thailand*
Top Americans: Cortney Batchelor is 88th; at age 20, she has plenty of upside.
58kg: Want more young Chinese lifters? Meet No. 1 Deng Wei (18) and No. 2 Li Xueying (21). Third is Nastassia Novikava of Belarus. Then it’s a little drop to two North Korean lifters, then Ecuador, Kazakhstan, China (again) and Ukraine.
2008: Chen Yanqing (China), Marina Shainova (Russia), O Jong Ae (North Korea)
Projection: China, Belarus, North Korea*
Top Americans: Amanda Sandoval is 35th; Amanda Hubbard 39th. Amanda, the song by Boston, peaked at No. 1 in 1986.
63kg: Three non-Chinese lifters in the top three! It’s Maiya Maneza (Kazakhstan), Sibel Simsek (Turkey) and Svetlana Tsarukaeva (Russia). Then it’s … China. Then South Korea, Colombia … China. Then North Korea.
2008: Pak Hyon Suk (North Korea), Irina Nekrassova (Kazakhstan), Lu Ying-chi (Chinese Taipei)
Projection: Kazakhstan, Turkey, South Korea*
Top Americans: Natalie Burgener is 23rd
69kg: China ranks fourth again, and that won’t be good enough to make the team. The top three here — Russian silver medalist Oxana Slivenko, Armenia’s Meline Daluzyan and Russia’s Svetlana Shimkova. After China, it’s Colombia, Macau (which is not in the Olympics), China (again) and Ukraine.
2008: Liu Chunhong (China), Oxana Slivenko (Russia), Natalya Davydova (Ukraine)
Projection: Russia, Armenia, Colombia*
Top Americans: Layfield Danica Rue is 43rd
75kg: Now it’s Russia that’s over the limit. After Kazakhstan’s Svetlana Podobedova, the next two are Russia’s Natalya Zabolotnaya and Nadezhda Yevstyukhina, the bronze medalist in 2008. Farther back, it’s Armenia, China, Spain and Belarus.
2008: Cao Lei (China), Alla Vazhenina (Kazakhstan), Nadezhda Yevstyukhina (Russia)
Projection: Kazahstan, Russia, Russia
Top Americans: Erin Wallace is 34th
75+kg: Russia’s Tatiana Kashirina is roughly 40 pounds lighter than the rest of the top five in this class. And yet she’s first, ahead of South Korea’s Mi-ran Jang and China’s Meng Suping. Though Meng is third, we might keep her here because it’s a big, big drop down to Kazakhstan’s Maria Grabovetskaya. Then it’s Samoa, Armenia and Ukraine.
2008: Jang Mi-Ran (South Korea), Olha Korobka (Ukraine), Mariya Grabovetskaya (Kazakhstan)
Projection: Russia, South Korea, China
Top Americans: Sarah Robles is 20th
* Going by the rankings, we have six Russian lifters and six Chinese. We have to cut those teams down to four. Russia has two lifters ranked first and one ranked second. That leaves three at No. 3, and only one can make it. The biggest margin between a Russian lifter at No. 3 and a potential medal threat at No. 4 is at 75kg. We’ll stick with Russia at 75 and drop the lifters at 63 and 69.
China’s team is even tougher to pick. They have two ranked No. 1, three at No. 2 and one at No. 3. But the No. 3 lifter (at 75+kg) is a staggering 21kg ahead of fourth. At 48kg, the No. 2 lifter is 18kg ahead of fourth. The gaps at 53 and 58 are closer. So even though Meng is third in the rankings, she’s more assured of a medal than the second-ranked lifters at 53 and 58. Decision made.