Mirco Scarantino celebrates with father Giovanni ©ITG

Mirco Scarantino won his ninth European title and secured yet another gold medal for the Sicilian town that can justifiably claim to be the weightlifting capital of the world.

Scarantino, 22, whose next target is the podium at the World Championships in Anaheim, California in six weeks, is from an illustrious weightlifting family and an even more illustrious town, Caltanisetta.

He joined the Italian police and lives in Rome now but his every move is followed back in Caltanisetta, a town of 60,000 that has produced more than 450 national champions, eight Olympians and a series of international medallists.

"Everybody in the town follows weightlifting - there is nowhere else in the world like it," said Antonio Urso, President of the European Weightlifting Federation and another who originates from Caltanisetta.

Scarantino’s latest victory was the European Under-23 56 kilograms title here today, on day two of the European Junior and Under-23 Championships.

His father Giovanni, a fireman, competed against the great Halil Mutlu in the 1990s and was an Olympian at Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996.

When he became the first citizen of Caltanisetta to compete at the Olympics - he was eighth in Seoul at 52kg - his efforts were watched by thousands on a giant screen in the town square.

"We have a competition in the family, and I lead Mirco 3-2 on Olympic appearances," said Giovanni, who coaches for the Italian Weightlifting Federation and was watching from the spectator seats in Durres, along with a few other noisy supporters from Caltanisetta.

"But on medals, Mirco is the champion."

Mirco celebrated wildly after making the decisive lift to finish with 258kg, ahead of Romania’s Ilie Ciotoiu - who made six good lifts - and Georgia’s Goderdzi Berdelidze.

Giovanni proudly presented the medals to all three, after which Mirco said he was thinking not just of three Olympic appearances, but four.

Nicu Vlad, a Romanian weightlifting legend, left, with today's gold medallist Monica Csengeri and Alex Padure, secretary general of the Romanian Weightlifting Federation, right ©RWF
Nicu Vlad, a Romanian weightlifting legend, left, with today's gold medallist Monica Csengeri and Alex Padure, secretary general of the Romanian Weightlifting Federation, right ©RWF

"I am planning to compete in Paris, but I also intend to be in Los Angeles in 2028," he said.

There is yet another potential champion waiting in the wings. 

Giovanni's youngest son Claudio, 11, has just taken up weightlifting and "could be even stronger than Mirco".

Another medal contender for the World Championships is the under-23 62kg winner, Shota Mishvelidze, of Georgia, who finished 17kg clear of his compatriot Ramini Shamilishvili, with an impressive total of 287kg.

He made six good lifts and, with likely improvement in him, could make the podium in Anaheim.

A surprise bronze medallist was the Albanian Romario Avdiraj, who was 30kg behind Mishvelidze but took advantage of three snatch failures by the Turk Ferdi Hardal.

There were two under-23 women’s events, the first of which went to Romania’s Monica Csengeri, who won the 48kg with a sweep in snatch, clean and jerk and total.

Csengeri, 21, who won the junior title last year, finished on 176kg, well clear of Russia’s Iana Mokhina and Bulgaria’s Daniela Pandova.

In the 53kg Elena Andries could have made it two golds for Romania but failed with her final attempt, leaving Russia’s Svetlana Ershova in first place on 191kg.

Andries was second on 190kg, with another Russian, Irina Baymulkina, third.

Romania’s big hope for the World Championships, Elena Toma, competes in the under-23 63kg on Wednesday.