By Brian Oliver

Europe’s “weightlifting family” heard about new projects focused on athletes, spectators and competition formats during the EWF Congress in Sofia, where IWF president Mohammed Jalood said there was evidence of “a new culture” in the sport.

Hosting arrangements for next year’s senior, junior and youth championships were announced. The senior European Championships will be in Moldova in April, the Youth/U15 event in Poland in August, and the Junior/U23 Championships in Albania in October.

Precise dates and details will be announced soon. EWF President Antonio Conflitti and IWF President Mohammed Jalood both spoke optimistically about the future. 

IWF General Secretary Antonio Urso

That future will not feature one of weightlifting’s most prominent leaders during recent years of reform. Antonio Urso, the Italian who served three terms as EWF president and is now general secretary of the IWF, announced that he will retire from the sport.

“This is my last year in weightlifting,” said Urso, who will stay in office until the next IWF elections in the first half of 2025. “From next year my life will drive me in another direction.
“I started in international activities in 2008 when I was elected EWF president. It has been not just a professional experience by a life experience for me. I want to thank all of you.”

Urso, whose future work will concern the coaching of children in a range of sports, has spoken before of the need for weightlifting to modernise. “It is time to find a new way for development. We need a completely new model for our sport,” Urso told delegates.

Conflitti raised the topic of modernisation in his report to Congress, which highlighted innovations at competitions. At the Youth Championships in Chisinau, Moldova last year the EWF piloted a fan zone “to bring the audience closer to the athletes”. 

EWF President Kt Antonio Conflitti

The EWF Cup was staged outdoors at Ancient Olympia, and there was also an outdoor event at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Maribor, Slovenia.

“Times demand that we adapt to modern needs, particularly those of the younger generation,” said Conflitti, who also said he was proud of the launch of EWF Web TV.

Six nominated members of the new EWF Athletes Commission were voted in by Congress. The athletes will now elect one of their own members to represent them on the EWF board. Jenny Tong from Britain, who thanked delegates for approving her and five colleagues to the Commission, spoke about the importance of giving athletes “a meaningful voice in the EWF”. She suggested that the Commission should have joint chairs, one male and one female, for gender parity. Tong, Anais Michel Cozzela from France, and Despina Polaktsidou from Greece are the women members. The men are David Litvinov from Israel, Arturs Plesnieks from Latvia and Sean Brown from Ireland. Brown was on the platform in the 89kg B Group, setting a national clean and jerk record, when the members were approved.

At the outset the members were nominated by the EWF executive board. In future, now that the Commission exists, they will go through the same election procedure as candidates for the board.

Colin Buckley from Ireland, chair of the EWF Coaching and Research Committee, reported on the success of the ongoing coaching licence project launched by the EWF last year in collaboration with the IWF. There has been 100% compliance with the project by EWF member federations, he said.

“This is a project for the future, one that is very important for our sport,” Buckley said. He reported that, of 334 coaches registered in Europe, half had been though formal learning for their role, but 20% had taught themselves by watching videos. “We have a duty to bring coaches up to a minimum standard,” he said. There are plans to hold a master class for European coaches next year.

“The IWF has the strongest anti-doping policy of all sports, and this will make it even stronger,” said Jalood, who pointed out that coaches are far more responsible for doping than athletes. Coaches whose athletes commit doping violations will be liable to lose their licence.
Jalood had more news about the fight against doping. There had been nearly 700 athletes at the IWF World Championships and zero doping positives, he said. “Then at Asian Games zero, World Junior Championships in Mexico zero, Grand Prix in Qatar zero.

“This shows that the culture in weightlifting is changing, we are going in the right direction. Let’s hope there are zero in Paris. We will all be happy if weightlifting’s presence is increased in the Olympic Games in future. If there is doping in Paris that will be difficult.”


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