With a roster full of emerging talent, the U.S. weightlifting team is ready to stake its claim on the podium at the IWF World Championships beginning Tuesday in Anaheim, California.
Olympic bronze medalist Sarah Robles (women’s +90 kg.) leads the U.S. team. The San Jacinto, California, native joins Mattie Rogers (women’s 69 kg.) and reigning men’s youth world champions CJ Cummings (69 kg.) and Harrison Maurus (77 kg.) among the favorites who could help the U.S. end a 12-year world championships medal drought in front of a hometown crowd.
A total of 328 athletes from 68 countries, including six reigning Olympic champions, will be competing through Dec. 5 at the competition. This will be the first world championships featuring eight weight categories for both men and women.
“This is going to be a weightlifting meet unlike any other,” USA Weightlifting CEO and world championships organizing committee member Phil Andrews said in a news release. “We’re ready to compete and we’re ready to welcome the world to Anaheim.”
The U.S. team named 12 men and 12 women to its roster in September, and from that team a total of 16 — eight men and eight women — were selected to compete this week.
They are: Brian Reisenauer (56 kg.), Cummings, Maurus, Angelo Bianco (77 kg.), Nathan Damron (94 kg.), Colin Burns (94 kg.), Wes Kitts (105 kg.) and Ian Wilson (105 kg.) for the men, and Alyssa Ritchey (48 kg.), Caitlin Hogan (53 kg.), Jessica Lucero (63 kg.), Rogers, 2016 Olympian Jenny Arthur (75 kg.), Marissa Klingseis (90 kg.), Ali Ludwig (90 kg.) and Robles for the women.
The last U.S. woman to medal at the world championships was Cheryl Haworth, who won a bronze medal in 2005, and the last to do it for the men was Wes Barnett, who won a bronze medal in 1997.
This will be a pivotal year for the world championships, as the sport is in danger from being dropped from the Olympic program beginning in 2024 in the wake of recent doping issues and must show satisfactory progress toward cleaning up the competition. As the sport cracks down on doping, more than half the athletes competing this week will be tested.
Meanwhile, nine countries (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Turkey, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan) are banned from competing this week as they serve one-year suspensions for anti-doping violations in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and their exclusion means great opportunities for the nations still involved.
Of the 45 medals awarded at the 2015 world championships, 27 went to athletes from those nine countries.
Even with the bans, some of the top weightlifters in the world will look to continue their reigns. Among them are six 2016 Olympic champions: Kianoush Rostami (Iran, 85 kg.), Sohrab Moradi (Iran, 94 kg.) and Lasha Talakhadze (Georgia, +105 kg.) on the men’s side, and Sopita Tanasan (Thailand, 48 kg. Olympic champion, competing in Anaheim at 53 kg.), Hsu Shu-ching (Chinese Taipei, 53 kg.) and Sukanya Srisurat (Thailand, 58 kg.) on the women’s side.
Three-time Olympic medalist Lidia Valentin of Spain (women’s 75 kg.) will also be competing, as will Behdad Salimi of Iran, the 2012 Olympic champion in men’s +105 kg.
The U.S. last hosted the weightlifting world championships in 2015. This year’s competition was originally to be held in Penang, Malaysia, but the host city resigned after organizational difficulties, and the IWF Executive Board chose the U.S. as its replacement.