Dekha takes advantage of Valentin’s absence to win controversial European gold

Iryna Dekha of Ukraine took advantage of Lidia Valentin’s absence to win gold at the European Weightlifting Championships in Moscow and effectively confirm her place as Europe’s top qualifier in the women’s 76 kilograms for Tokyo 2020.

Valentin had a severe bout of gastroenteritis over the weekend and had to go to the hospital rather than fly to Moscow.

It was a controversial success for Dekha, as Russian teenager Iana Sotieva believed she won by doing her last 137kg clean and jerk.

Sotieva, 18, the young European champion, shouted and jumped for joy after hearing the buzzer but her effort was deemed “no lift”, presumably for a press release.

The Russian coaches protested briefly but the hosts quickly restored their dignity and Dekha received his medal.

Russian women now have six silver or bronze medals and this is the closest the team has come to a victory at these European championships.

Dekha’s total of 248 kg was 2 kg higher than Sotieva’s with another Russian, Anastasiia Romanova, third.

Defending champion Darya Naumava of Belarus weighed just 240 kg and was fourth.

The popular Spanish Valentin, who is trying to qualify for her fourth Olympic Games at the age of 36, is still in a good position and can earn valuable points at the Ibero American Open in Cali, Colombia, in May, which ‘she intends to do.

To give herself a better chance of qualifying, she can move up to the 87 kg category at Cali.

Valentin won gold, silver and bronze in his three Olympic appearances, the first two after his rivals were disqualified for doping several years later.

It was only the third time since 2002 that Valentin has missed the European Championships, in which she has competed 16 times and won four gold, five silver and two bronzes in total since 2007.

Dekha is expected to claim the top spot for Europe at the Tokyo qualifiers, and after Naumava’s effort it remains to be seen what Valentin will have to do as the amended qualifying rules have yet to be announced by the International Federation of weightlifting (IWF).

Georgia's Revaz Davitadze had to settle for a silver medal for the second year in a row © Getty Images
Georgia’s Revaz Davitadze had to settle for a silver medal for the second year in a row © Getty Images

There were more points available in Moscow, a “gold” event, than there will be in Cali, which is “silver”.

In the non-Olympic men’s 89kg category, young Armenian Karen Avagyan won his first senior title when Georgian Revaz Davitadze failed with his last attempt at 205kg – and finished second by 1kg for the second time in a row.

Avagyan, 21, made 175-200-375 and made it harder than he should have by missing his last two attempts.

Avagyan’s older teammate Andranik Karapetyan finished third.

With three days remaining, Bulgaria are still at the top of the medal standings.

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