Lifter of the year, or most popular lifter of the year?
With over 30,000 votes collected by the IWF from over 60 different countries, the results for the 2018 IWF Lifter of the Year came back the same as they did in 2017, with Lidia Valentin (ESP -81) winning it for the women and Lasha Talakhadze (GEO +109) winning it for the men.
Now before I dig into this I want to make it extra clear, as though the title wasn’t obvious enough, that this is an opinion piece! I am sharing my considerations and thoughts on the results of this vote and am not suggesting that this opinion is shared by other writers of the Weightlifting House website, or by the weightlifting community at large.
Firstly, I wish to congratulate these two phenomenal athletes for their successes this year. Both Lidia and Lasha have contributed enormously to the development of the sport. Lidia over an incredibly long and successful career, and Lasha over arguably the greatest first half of a career any weightlifter has ever had. The differences between the performances of these two athletes, however, were to my mind relatively drastic.
Let’s take a look at their performances over the last year. This does not include the even more differential performances from the 2019 Europen Championships. It is also worth mentioning that half-way through the year the weight classes changed and so world records became easier to come by. Even so both athletes were subject to this change and the relatively lower hanging fruit that came with it.
Lasha Talakhadze +109
Lasha Talakhadze had another unbelievable year of weightlifting.
- Equaled and then earlier this year exceeded the most times any weightlifter has ever totalled over 470 kg
- Exceeded the most made snatches at 210 kg or more by any weightlifter ever
- Snatched two world records including a weight that no other human has ever snatched in competition (217 kg)
- Clean and jerked two new world records (252/257 kg)
- Set three new world record totals, his heaviest at 474 kg – at that point the 3rd heaviest total of all-time, the heaviest ever also belonging to himself
- Received 1,278 Robi points for his performance at the World Championships
- Currently sits in 1st place in the Robi rankings across men and women
- Became the 2018 European Champion
- Became the 2018 World Champion
Lidia Valentin – ESP 81 kg
Lidia Valentin continued to add medals to her decorated career.
- Became European Champion
- Became World Champion
- Received 719 Robi points for her performance at the world championships, 559 less than Lasha
- Currently sits in 219th position in the Robi Rankings across men and women, 74th from among just the women
- Was out-totalled by seven weightlifters from lighter body weights at the World Championships, including Deng Wei (CHN) who was three weight classes lighter. Deng also received 489 more Robi points than Lidia for her performance.
In case it needs to be mentioned again, I believe that Lidia Valentin is a phenomenal athlete. She has had a tremendous career, medalling internationally at nineteen competitions and winning gold at nine. She was however outperformed by many other women during 2018, the majority of whom were not available to vote for. As a non-Olympic category, the 81 kg weight class was highly uncompetitive and by some way the lowest performing, as seen by the totals below.
- 59 kg – 237 kg
- 64 kg – 252 kg
- 71 kg – 267 kg
- 76 kg – 270 kg
- 81 kg – 249 kg
I do not dispute Lidia’s tremendous accolades and her inspiring and successful career. My focal point rather is to put forward the notion that the IWF Lifter of the Year award is not so much a vote on the accomplishments of a certain athletes during the specified calendar year, but a popularity contest from within a select group of athletes chosen in advance by the IWF. I am sure Lidia’s 242,000 deserved Instagram followers helped.
Whilst I do believe Lidia’s career deserves recognition, I feel that many other women deserve more for their mind-blowing and world record-setting performances during the year of 2018.