A remarkable performance by the 20-year-old super-heavyweight Ali Davoudi has brightened Iran’s prospects of making the weightlifting podium at Tokyo 2020.
There was more good news for Iran with an encouraging update on the fitness of Sohrab Moradi, one of the nation’s two weightlifting champions at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Not so good was another bomb-out by the other gold medallist four years ago, Kianoush Rostami.
Davoudi, who has only just left the junior ranks, made 441kg at the Fajr Cup in Rasht, near the Iranian capital Tehran – a silver qualifier for Tokyo.
His career-best effort, which would have been good enough for bronze at last year’s International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships, puts Davoudi in pole position for one of Iran’s two places in Tokyo.
Apart from the apparently unbeatable gold medal favourite Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia, only one man has made a bigger total in Oympic qualifying and he is expected to miss Tokyo.
Gor Minasyan of Armenia had a career best 460kg in finishing second to Talakhadze at last year’s IWF World Championships, but he will likely give way to Simon Martirosyan, the phenomenal 109kg lifter who went up in weight in the Fajr Cup and finished second to Davoudi.
Armenia can send only one male lifter to Tokyo because of multiple doping violations, and Martirosyan will surely take it if fit as he is favourite for gold at 109kg.
With Rostami, the 85kg champion in Rio, failing with all three snatch attempts, Iran’s hopes for the second slot in Japan may yet rest on Moradi, who won gold at 94kg in Rio but has suffered two serious injuries during qualifying.
Moradi badly injured his spine a year ago then dislocated a shoulder last July.
He looked out of contention but he will return to action in the West Asian Championships in Dubai in three weeks time, and is hopeful of a good performance at the Asian Championships in Kazakhstan in April.
Moradi is way down in 78th place in the current rankings and would probably need to lift close to world-record levels in both those competitions to make it – but he is the world record holder in snatch and total at 96kg, both set when he won the 2018 world title.
“We cannot speak about his presence at the Olympics right now,” said Mohsen Beiranvand, the 2004 Olympic Games lifter and former national team coach who is now general secretary of the Iran Weightlifting Federation.
But Beiranvand said Moradi had made very encouraging progress in “medical and training programmes under doctors and coaches” and would definitely compete in Dubai.
Rostami is all but out of contention, having bombed out at the 2019 IWF World Championships and registered no points in the second phase of qualifying.
After training alone under his own supervision for years he was brought into the team and had responded well, said Beiranvand.
“Some see the problem as coaching,” he told local media.
“After the World Championships in Thailand the Federation insisted he should no longer practise individually, but should be coached.
“We saw him lift his best weight in the past few years at the Qatar Cup (403kg, in December) with the Federation’s select coach.
“I don’t know what happened (in the Fajr Cup).
“Everybody in the competition saw Kianoush easily lift 170kg in the warm-up hall but he dropped the weights three times.”
Rostami failed at 175kg twice, then again at 177kg.
The other Iranian in the field, Reza Dehdar, also bombed out, leaving Kyrgyzstan’s Bekdoolot Rasulbekov to claim victory with a modest 371kg.
Another Iranian contender for Tokyo, Ali Hashemi, won the 109kg with 388kg.
Three Indonesian lifters won medals in Rasht.
The most impressive was 30-year-old Eko Yuli Irawan, a silver medallist at 62kg in Rio, who won the 67kg with 310kg, ahead of team-mate Deni on 285kg.
Irawan’s total was better than the 73kg winner Triyatno, who made 306kg.