Luo Shifang gave China a fourth win in as many days at the IWF World Championships in Riyadh ©IWF

China’s national anthem was played for the fourth time in four days after Luo Shifang put the disappointment of last year behind her to win a sweep of golds in an exciting women’s 59 kilograms contest at the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships in Riyadh.

At the 2022 World Championships in Bogotá last December, the first qualifying event for Paris 2024, this was the only women’s Olympic category in which China failed to win a medal on total. Luo Shifang and Luo Xiaomin finished fourth and fifth.

This time Luo Xiaomin was replaced by 18-year-old Pei Xinyi, a multiple junior and youth world record holder who won at the non-Olympic weight of 64kg in Bogotá. Pei finished third here on 102-130-232 behind Luo, who made a six-from-six 107-136-243, and the Ukrainian European champion Kamila Konotop on 106-130-236.

Olympic champion Kuo Hsing-Chun from Chinese Taipei lifted in the C Group yesterday and still won a medal, the clean and jerk silver on 130kg, the same number as third-placed Konotop and Pei.

Kuo was fourth on total on 231kg, ahead of last year’s winner Yenny Alvarez from Colombia, who made 100-129-229. Another C Group lifter, Rafiatu Lawal from Nigeria, was sixth with a total of 225kg.

Asia is the dominant force in weightlifting so was Luo surprised to see so many contenders from Europe, South America, Africa and the United States - Taylor Wilkins was 10th on 220kg - on the scoreboard?

"Yes I was a little bit surprised" she replied. "But I am confident that I can maintain my dominance.

"I am proud of my performance, and very happy that I didn’t let anybody down, that everything went to plan.

"You will feel different things on different stages but the main thing that kept me going since last year was the knowledge that I am still young, still improving, gaining in experience and in confidence."

Ukrainian European champion Kamila Konotop won silver in the women's 59kg category at the IWF World Championships ©IWF
Ukrainian European champion Kamila Konotop won silver in the women's 59kg category at the IWF World Championships ©IWF

Hidilyn Diaz, the Olympic champion at 55kg who had to move up when that category was dropped for Paris, showed improvement on only her second appearance at 59kg.

After winning the world title at 55kg last year Diaz had found the jump in weight difficult to cope with when she made 221kg in finishing fourth at the Asian Championships in Korea in May.

Here she improved that total by 3kg and edged ahead of her Philippines team-mate Elreen Ando with a successful final clean and jerk of 127kg.

Kuo made 236kg in Tokyo to finish well clear of her rivals. Polina Guryeva won silver for Turkmenistan with 217kg and Mikiko Ando from Japan took bronze on 214kg.

When the rankings are updated a few days after the World Championships finish, 217kg and 214kg will be well down the list. Ando totalled 216kg in Riyadh, better than her Tokyo medal-winning effort but good enough only for 13th place here.

The standard in this class has gone way up, and far bigger numbers will be needed for a place on the podium in Paris. Tom Goegebuer, triple Olympian coach of ninth-placed Nina Sterckx and President of the Belgian Weightlifting Federation said: "Qualifying for the Olympic Games is harder than lifting at the Olympic Games."

The versatile Sterckx made a career-best five-from-six 99-121-220 and is now ranked in the top 10 at both 49kg and 59kg.

"It’s the same in the 49s," said Goegebuer. "It’s harder to qualify because there are fewer Olympic places available than last time, not so many weight classes, and people take more risks."

Those risks are paying off enough times for the top 20 to be a far higher standard than before.

"If the qualifying system was the same as last time, three periods and an average from the three best results in those periods, Nina would not be going for these numbers," said Goegebuer.

There was another sea of red in the B Group, in which none of the 11 athletes managed to better the top three in the C Group - Kuo, Lawal and her Nigeria team-mate Adijat Olarinoye.