Latvian Rebekah Koha earned her second European junior title ©Alex Padure

A lifetime-best performance by the 18-year-old Latvian Rebekah Koha earned her a second European junior title and continued her progression in what should be an illustrious weightlifting career at the European Junior and Under-23 Championships here.

A few hours later Latvia were denied a second gold only by the final lift in the junior men’s 77 kilogram class, won by Armenia’s Davit Hovhannisyan.

Koha, from Ventspils, will finish her schooling next spring and will then decide whether to continue her studies or focus solely on weightlifting.

With one of Europe’s most respected coaches, Eduards Andruskevics - who also coaches 77kg runner-up Ritvars Suharevs - guiding her and sponsors already showing an interest, it will be a surprise if she does not opt for the sporting route.

Koha was within 2kg of an Olympic medal at 53kg in Rio in the summer, has already won youth and junior continental titles at the two lightest weights and is now the European junior champion at 58kg after making six good lifts to hold off challenges from older, heavier rivals from Spain and Romania.

Last April Koha finished third in the European 53kg seniors, and if she maintains her improvement she will have a good chance of winning the 58kg senior title in Croatia next April.

"I will go to the Qatar Cup this month but the European seniors will be my next big competition," said Koha, who took up weightlifting aged 12 after trying "lots of other sports", including basketball and ice hockey, because it gave her the best chance to use her strength.

Her mother is a massage therapist so Koha benefits from that, too. 

More titles were decided in Eilat ©Alex Padure
More titles were decided in Eilat ©Alex Padure

She spends a lot of time at training camps in Rome where Andruskevics works with the European Federation.

There was an exciting finish to the competition, first when Liudmila Pankova of Belarus fainted after failing with an attempt at 111kg, then when Spain’s Alba Sanchez had a no-lift decision overturned by the jury at the same weight, thereby giving her the clean and jerk gold and overall silver.

Romania’s Madalina Molie, returning from a two-year doping ban, was 1kg behind in third place.

It looked like a Latvian double when Suharevs, a 17-year-old student also based in Ventspils, made his final attempt in the 77kg clean and jerk to take the overall lead from Romania’s snatch winner Doru Stoian.

But Hovhannisyaan lifted 177kg to move into first place and win Armenia’s first gold of the week.

The under-23s who followed the women juniors at 58kg could not match Koha’s total despite being three to five years older. 

The winner, on 201kg, was Ukraine’s Veronika Ivasiuk, with Sumeyye Kentli of Turkey second and, thanks to a successful final clean and jerk of 114kg, Poland’s Katarzyna Kraska was third.

That lift relegated the tearful Russian Mariia Lubina, third in clean and jerk, to fourth overall.

Spain’s David Sanchez, who was 10th in the Rio Olympics, won the under-23 title at 69kg. 

He made all six lifts for a total of 311kg, 6kg lower than his Rio effort, to finish well ahead of Zlatko Minchev of Bulgaria and Darius Suiugan of Romania. 

The 1-2-3 order was the same in snatch, clean and jerk and total.