Romania's Loredana Toma won the European Weightlifting Championships gold medal in the 64kg ©Eurosport

Loredana Toma, of Romania, won her third straight European senior title with a commanding performance in the women’s 64 kilograms on the fourth day of the European Weightlifting Championships in Batumi in Georgia.

Behind Toma and her team-mate Irina Lepsa - runner-up to Toma for a fifth time - there was a tremendous battle for bronze between two British lifters, Zoe Smith and Sarah Davies.

Davies was in line for the medal but Smith, who has so often seen her hopes dashed by injuries, had two attempts remaining.

She had to go up to a career-best 126kg to make the first of those two clean and jerks, and did it.

To finish ahead of Davies on total she needed another two kilograms and, in making the clean she pulled a muscle in her leg.

"I wasn’t sure I’d even get the jerk over my head," Smith told insidethegames.

"I really had to fight for it."

She had never lifted more than 125kg in training, and this was 128kg, with a pulled muscle - yet Smith made the lift.

She looked far happier with her bronze than Toma, having failed with world and European record attempts, did with her gold.

Perhaps that was not surprising as Smith had never been on the podium at the European Championships, had missed the 2016 Olympic Games in RIo de Janeiro after suffering a serious shoulder injury in that year’s British Championships, was further troubled by a persistent back injury, and had had to take a job in a coffee shop when UK Sport cut off its funding of weightlifting.

She has since relocated from London to Loughborough to study and train there, and she works part-time for the Students Union.

The benefits of her move and of staying injury-free showed, and the London 2012 Olympian, who will be 25 this month, is now well in contention to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

"My sights are firmly set on Tokyo," she said.

"Clearly I’m in good form."

The presence of Smith and Davies in the top four shows how well Britain’s women are doing.

Commonwealth Games champion Emily Godley, in tomorrow's 71kg, and Emily Campbell in the super-heavyweights both also compete in the A groups.

"Watch out for the two Emilys, it’s going to be exciting," said Smith.

Davies was unlucky to fail with her fifth lift, dropping the bar when she could not take a breath, and did well to come back out less than two minutes later to make her sixth lift on 125kg, also a personal best.

Toma just failed with a world record attempt in the snatch, finishing on her knees as she tried to lift 114kg.

That would have beaten the world best set by China’s Deng Wei, one of the sport’s all-time greats, in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Cup in Fuzhou in February.

Deng’s presence in this weight class means that, provided she keeps clear of injury, her rivals are effectively striving for silver and bronze medals at the World Championships and Tokyo 2020. 

Toma was within two kilograms of Deng in the snatch at last year’s IWF World Championships in Turkmenistan but could not make the podium on total, finishing 18kg adrift of the Chinese when she missed her second and third clean and jerks.

In the men’s 73kg, Bozhidar Andreev gave Bulgaria its first title of the Championships when he made all three clean and jerks to finish ahead of halfway leader Briken Calja, of Albania, with Vadzim Likharad of Belarus third.

Andreev set European records in clean and jerk at 192kg and total (=wtih 345kg, and, despite being four kilograms lighter, he lifted one kilograms more than when he finished fourth last year in the old 77kg class.

It was Bulgaria’s first major gold medal in five years, and their third medal of the week in Batumi.