weightlifting world championships

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Sarah Robles aims to cap strong showing for U.S. weightlifting women

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Jenny Arthur gave the U.S. women a third medal Wednesday in the world weightlifting championships, a feat that was unprecedented in this century. On Friday, Olympic bronze medalist Sarah Robles tries to make it an unfathomable four.

Robles has already ended two droughts for U.S. women’s weightlifters. In 2016, she took Olympic bronze to become the first U.S. women’s medalist since 2000. The next year, she was the first U.S. woman to win a world championship since Robyn Byrd in 1994. (Second behind Robles in the 2017 super heavyweight competition was Laurel Hubbard, a transgender athlete competing for New Zealand.)

READ: Hubbard faces uphill climb to qualify for 2020 Olympics

U.S. women were successful for the first years of world championship competition, which opened for women in 1987. When the sport debuted in the Olympics in 2000, Tara Nott and Cheryl Haworth won medals, with the diminutive ex-gymnast Nott being bumped up to gold after apparent winner Izabela Dragneva of Bulgaria failed a drug test, but no U.S. woman reached the podium again until Robles.

Haworth also was the last U.S. woman to win a world championship medal, a bronze in 2005, until Instagram star (619,000 followers) Mattie Rogers took bronze in 2017, three days before Robles’ gold.

Also in 2017, Harrison Maurus became the first U.S. man to win a world championship medal since Wes Barnett in 1997. No U.S. man has medaled this year.

This year, the U.S. women have already bested their 2017 breakthrough, starting with a 1-2 finish at 71kg, where Kate Nye won gold and Rogers took silver. Jenny Arthur made it three with her bronze at 81kg.

READ: Nye, Rogers go 1-2 at 71kg

Despite her resume, Robles will be an underdog in her weight class. She ranks fifth coming into the event, just behind North Korea’s Kim Kuk Hyang but farther behind the trio of Russia’s Tatiana Kashirina, China’s Li Wenwen and China’s Meng Suping, all of whom have lifted a total of 300kg between the two phases of competition (snatch, clean and jerk). Robles won the 2017 title with 284kg, when many of the top lifters weren’t present, and set an American record of 290kg to take fifth in the 2018 world championships.

In addition to the medals for combined weight between the two lifts, the world championships offer medals for each individual lift. Arthur won silver in clean and jerk, Rogers won clean and jerk silver along with bronze in the snatch, and Nye swept the gold medals on offer.

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World records fall at Weightlifting World Championships

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Article by Dan Levinsohn

Ten world records fell this week at the IWF World Weightlifting Championships, which concluded last night in Houston, shedding light on who will contend for a medal next summer in Rio.

The tournament brought together 609 lifters from a record breaking 98 participating countries, with men competing in eight different weight classes and women in seven.

The athletes didn’t waste any time getting to work rewriting the record books. On the first night of competition in the men’s 56kg division, London gold medalist Om Yun Chol of North Korea lifted a 171kg in the clean and jerk. His previous world record stood at 170kg, set at the 2014 Asian Games.

Though Om claimed his fifth total title at the World Weightlifting Championships with 302kg, he barely took gold over China’s snatch winner and London silver medalist, Wu Jingbiao, who lifted the same total weight. Om ultimately won through body weight tiebreaker. Neither the snatch nor the total lifts were all-time bests.

Some of the other world records included Azerbaijan’s Boyanka Kostova winning 112kg in the snatch and 252kg total in the women’s 58kg division, China’s Deng Wei lifting 146kg in the 63kg category’s clean and jerk, and Russia’s Aleksey Lovchev lifting a 264kg clean and jerk and a 475kg total in the men’s +105kg competition. Snatch world record holder and London gold medalist Behdad Salimi of Iran (+105kg) could not compete in this year’s Championships due to a recent knee injury; he recorded his highest-ever total, 465kg, at the 2014 Asian Games.

Asian countries continued to dominate most fields, with China placing first in six of the 15 total categories and North Korea and Chinese Taipei winning one title each. Overall, Chinese women won 11 gold medals, nine silver, and one bronze, ranking first in the overall medal table. Though China’s men won seven gold medals, three silver, and one bronze, Russia’s men took first place with seven golds, four silvers, and two bronzes.

The United States saw particularly impressive results from its female athletes, who finished 14th overall in the women’s medals. In the 75kg division, Jenny Arthur placed seventh in the clean and jerk with 138kg; she placed eighth in total with 244kg. In the +75kg category, Sarah Robles claimed a 122kg snatch and 157kg clean and jerk for a sixth place total finish of 279kg.

Perhaps the Championship’s most dramatic moment occurred during the women’s 75kg event. North Korea’s Rim Jong-Sim, who previously won gold in the 69kg division at the London Olympics, injured herself during her third snatch attempt (video here). First, she tore the labrum in her left hip. Then, defying doctor’s orders, she injured a stretch muscle and hurt her left knee on three subsequent clean and jerk attempts. She collapsed soon after her lift and was eventually hoisted onto the awards-ceremony podium by her fellow athletes, ultimately finishing second.

NBC Researcher Dylan Howlett contributed to this article from Houston.