Karoliina Lundahl has been elected onto the IWF Executive Board ©Karoliina Lundahl

A new member of the International Weightlifting Federation's (IWF) Executive Board is hoping to use her wealth of expertise in coaching to good effect after being elected.

Finland's Karoliina Lundahl was voted in today onto the Executive Board of the IWF during their Congress here in Thailand's capital city.

After the withdrawal of Moira Lassen, the Canadian who became the IWF’s first female Executive Board member in 2013, Lundahl was a clear winner. 

Yesterday, Ursula Papandrea, of the United States, was elected to one of five vice-president places, and she will sit on the Executive Board with 48-year-old Lundahl.

It is the first time two women have sat on the 21-strong Executive Board.

Lundahl was "surprised and pleased" with the result. 

"I had worldwide support and I have made a lot of new friends over the past two days," she said.

During her career, Lundahl took part in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta in the shot put before switching to weightlifting in 1998 when women's competitions were introduced to the programme at Sydney 2000.

In weightlifting, she won two World Championship titles at Istanbul in 1994 in the over 83 kilogram category and four years later on home ground in Lahti when she topped the 75kg contest.

She then became an international coach and is head of the coaching and education at the Finnish Weightlifting Federation. 

One of her aims on the Executive Board will be to promote weightlifting, which is growing worldwide in participation numbers.

This is largely because of Crossfit and the rise of weight training in other sports.

Lundahl said Federations have a choice because there are two groups of weightlifters - those who are focused entirely on elite Olympic competition and those who are not, but want to lift as part of their gym regime.

Weightlifting has a big following in Finland ©Getty Images
Weightlifting has a big following in Finland ©Getty Images

"Do you serve this second group or do you ignore them?" she said. 

"That is the choice, and in Finland we work with them, as well as having a separate coaching education staff for Olympic level weightlifting. 

"We have very clearly stated that we are the experts in strength training, and if you want to learn you come to us. 

"We are the specialists, and we market ourselves that way.

"If you want to compete, too. 

"There are a lot of commercial gyms in Finland and Crossfit is popular, but to compete you must be part of a club, so the gyms must become weightlifting clubs.

"It works well, making it clear that we own the snatch, we own the clean and jerk, if you want effective strength training you come to us. 

"It’s something we can do in the IWF and I believe it will help in terms of marketing, of making weightlifting known to even greater masses.

"In Crossfit you have the audience, the likes on Facebook, the web pages, and it helps if you are involved. 

"People want to follow it and we can attract them to follow weightlifting, which helps to attract sponsors."

Weightlifting is an important part of Crossfit and new IWF Executive Board member Karoliina Lundahl would like to tap into that market, like they do in her native Finland ©Crossfit
Weightlifting is an important part of Crossfit and new IWF Executive Board member Karoliina Lundahl would like to tap into that market, like they do in her native Finland ©Crossfit

Weightlifting has a high media profile in Finland. 

Top lifters Milko Tokola, who famously fell off the stage while celebrating a lift at last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and Anni Vuohijoki have large followings on social media, and the number of licenced and "recreational" lifters are rising. 

More than a third of them are women.

Lundahl has written three books on training programmes and was been invited to the International Olympic Committee’s Women in Sport forum in Switzerland.

She teaches English and German in Stockholm, where she lives with her Swedish husband and two sons. 

She trains once a week with Niklas, 12, and expects 10-year-old Rasmus to take up weightlifting too, next year.

In addition to her World Championship crowns, Lundahl won the 1994 at European title at 83kg.