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  • Houston Raises Bar for Weightlifting - On the Scene


    11/28/15

    Fernando Saraiva of Brazil (ATR)
    (ATR) Shattered records mark the close of  the International Weightlifting Federation 2015 World Championships  in Texas.

    Seven new bests were set in Houston from Nov. 21 to 28, while the turnout was also a record with 670+ lifters, men and women, from 113 national federations. The event is one of the final qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics, helping to boost interest.

    Another record: TV or online coverage of the championships reached 180 countries with a potential audience of 1 billion. In the U.S. sports channels ESPN and BEIN have provided daily coverage. Press credentials were issued to 90 from the U.S. and 71 from about 18 countries.

    IWF President Tamas Ajan tells Around the Rings the experience in Houston is good for the sport.
    IWF President Tamas Ajan. (ATR)

    “In my opinion these are very successful world championships. I am happy because if you can organize a spectacular and good world championships in the United States, it promotes the sport of weightlifting very much,” he said.

    “This is the most colorful world championships in my life. I have been with the sport for 45 years. Everything has changed,” observes Ajan, now 76 and president of the IWF since 1976.

    Most striking in the 5,000 seat hall in the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston is the massive LCD wall at the rear of the stage that shows the action and results for each lift.

    IWF director general Attila Adamfi tells ATR the venue has been perfect for the event.

    “Competition, training, accommodation is all under one roof,” a big plus he says.

    The George R. Brown Convention Center.
    “Houston delivered a few things, which have never been provided before. We had 70 training platforms -- 60 was the record. Having so many athletes and their entourages staying in one hotel with the training and competition all under one roof is something very special, considering we have more than 600 athletes. It helps athletes who have finished the competition to watch the events,” says Adamfi.

    The event was organized by the Harris County - Houston Sports Authority, U.S. Weightlifting and the U.S. Olympic Committee. It's the first weightlifting world championship in the U.S. since 1987.

    Tokyko 2020's Koji Murofushi
    Sports executives from Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been in Houston observing the competition.

    “As part of Tokyo 2020, I am here to see the real competition, to see what's going on,” Koji Murofushi, Tokyo 2020 sports director tells ATR.

    Murofushi, an Olympic champion in the hammer throw, says it’s good to get the perspective of athletes in the planning for the Olympic Games.

    “I am very honored to do that - be engaged with other athletes. It's very important not to just stay in Tokyo, but to come all over the world and hear from athletes what they are thinking. What they eat, where they sleep - it's a great opportunity for me to get the athlete perspective,” says Murofushi.

    For Larry Probst, chairman of the US Olympic Committee and an IOC member, the weightlifting championship is another chance for the US to shine in the Olympic sports world as it campaigns for the 2024 Olympics in Los Angeles.

    “Every time we host a championship or something like the ANOC General Assembly and people feel welcome in the United States and have a good experience, I think it’s got to help the bid,” Probst told ATR during a break in the action.

    “I heard nothing but compliments about what took place in Washington DC. I've gotten dozens of thank you letters from people all over the world telling me what a great experience they had. And in the short time that I've been here, I've been hearing the same thing from people all over the world, that this is the best world championship they've ever had. Every time we do something like this and we do it well, you get a positive impression of the United States. It's got to help,” says Probst.

    Along with Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Hamburg and Budapest - hometown for Tamas Ajan and the IWF headquarters-are the five cities bidding for 2024.
    Attila Adamfi, director general of the International Weightlifting Federation (ATR)


    The IWF is hoping to set another record at these world championships: fewer positive drug tests than ever. At the 2014 world championships in Kazakhstan eight lifters, including two gold medalists, tested positive. In Houston drug tests from about 30 percent of the athletes, including all medalists, are being analyzed. Results are expected within the next couple of weeks says the IWF director general.

    “We are committed to doing the best that we can do with USADA. We do much more testing than some other sports, but we believe this is our duty our obligation, in the fight against doping and to protect clean athletes. We are not afraid to fight and we're not afraid of making tough decisions if it's needed,” says Adamfi, referring to the banishment of Bulgaria from the 2016 Olympics.

    Earlier this month on the eve of the championships, the IWF executive issued the ban after chronic violations of anti-doping rules by men and women competitors from Bulgaria. This year 11 lifters have tested positive. In 2008, the Bulgarian team withdrew from competition in Beijing over drugs issues.

    “Weightlifting would like to show what federations can do to control doping,” Ajan says.

    “I am smiling because here at the world championships we are making around 220 doping controls. We make 220 doping controls meanwhile at another world championship a few weeks ago they made six controls,” says the IWF chief.

    “Naturally if I make 220 controls I have more of a chance to find more positive cases. But this is how we are working. We have to stop the use of any forbidden substances”.
    “Weightlifting would like to show what federations can do to control doping,” Ajan says.

    “I am smiling because here at the world championships we are making around 220 doping controls. We make 220 doping controls meanwhile at another world championship a few weeks ago they made six controls,” says the IWF chief.

    “Naturally if I make 220 controls I have more of a chance to find more positive cases. But this is how we are working. We have to stop the use of any forbidden substances”.

    “I am smiling because here at the world championships we are making around 220 doping controls. We make 220 doping controls meanwhile at another world championship a few weeks ago they made six controls,” says the IWF chief.

    “Naturally if I make 220 controls I have more of a chance to find more positive cases. But this is how we are working. We have to stop the use of any forbidden substances”.
    Written and reported in Houston by Ed Hula.

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