Gudar Beqiraj of Albania, second left, is one of two weightlifting officials to have recently died ©IWF

Two prominent figures in weightlifting in Europe and Asia have died within days of each other this week, Gudar Beqiraj of Albania and Kairat Turlykhanov of Kazakhstan.

Beqiraj, who was 72, was an athlete and referee who became President of the Albanian Weightlifting Federation and vice-president of his National Olympic Committee.

He was one of Albania's foremost scientists, a professor of mathematics and information science who worked on pan-European research projects.

Beqiraj was a contemporary and friend of Ymer Pampuri, the only Albanian world champion in any sport.

Pampuri took gold for the clean and press at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, which doubled up as the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships.

He dropped away to ninth place overall but his 127.5 kilograms remains an Olympic record in the old 60kg class, because the lift was dropped from the sport after the Munich Games.

Beqiraj lifted at the same competitions as Pampuri in Albania but did not compete at international level.

He became an international referee in 1982, was Albanian Weightlifting Federation President for eight years from 1992, was vice-president of Albania's NOC from 1996 to 2000 and was awarded a diploma by Juan Antonio Samaranch, then President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in 2001 before being honoured with the Olympic Order in 2007.

He was also honoured by the IWF for his 50 years service to weightlifting in 2016, when he briefly led the Albanian federation for a second time.

Beqiraj, who studied in France and Italy as well as Albania, worked on multinational data projects for the European Commission and was head of Albania's Science Academy.

His grandson Dilan Reka, whom Beqiraj supported, is a popular singer who represented Albania at last year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Turlykhanov, a successful businessman and high-ranking Government official, led Kazakhstan's national weightlifting federation during the highs of Olympic glory at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and was replaced by the incumbent Zhanat Tusupbekov before many of his nation's medallists were retrospectively disqualified for doping.

Kairat Turlykhanov of Kazakhstan has died at the age of 60 ©AWF
Kairat Turlykhanov of Kazakhstan has died at the age of 60 ©AWF

His younger brother Daulet was a wrestling silver medallist at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and is now President of United World Wrestling Asia.

Turlykhanov, 60, was a current Executive Board member of the Asian Weightlifting Federation and Honorary President of the Kazakhstan Federation.

As well as running a business empire, he was a senior adviser to the National Security Council and the Transport Minister. 

He led Kazakhstan's weightlifting federation when the nation enjoyed unprecedented success at the Olympic Games, but four gold medals, one silver and one bronze were forfeited when the IOC retested stored samples and found 10 Kazakhs who competed in Beijing and London had taken steroids.

Kazakhstan has been more rigorous in its anti-doping procedures in recent years.

Only this week, Kazakhstan's National Anti-Doping Agency announced that Anna Nurmukhambetova, the nation's only remaining medallist from London 2012, had been suspended for four years for doping at national level.

Nurmukhambetova was promoted from fifth place to third in the 69kg class after doping disqualifications and could move up to second when another case is closed. 

She has not competed in international events since 2014.

Meanwhile Ilya Ilyin, the twice disqualified Olympic gold medallist who announced his retirement as an athlete last week, has taken up a new role in sports management.

Ilyin has been appointed director of the Ice Palace sports complex in his home town of Kyzylorda and will now focus on a new career, with plans to open a school for weightlifting and dance.

"I intend to diversify my skills in sports management," he told a local reporter. 

"Now my main task is to prove myself in a new profession."