Varazdat Lalayan set three continental records ©Painonnostoliitto SPNL

Varazdat Lalayan highlighted Armenia’s prowess in the heavier categories of men’s weightlifting by rounding off the European Junior and Under-23 Championships in Rovaniemi in Finland with three continental records.

The 22-year-old missed his final two attempts but by then he had already bettered the European under-23 super-heavyweight records across the board with a snatch of 206 kilograms, a clean and jerk of 241kg and a phenomenal total of 447kg.

That was 6kg more than Ali Davoudi of Iran made in taking silver at the Tokyo Olympic Games in August.

Second-placed Eduard Ziaziulin of Belarus, who holds two European junior records, was 16kg behind Lalayan and the bronze medallist Oleh Hanzenko of Ukraine was beaten by 69kg.

Hanzenko’s team mate Bohdan Hoza had arguably the outstanding single performance of the week when he broke his own junior world record for the 109kg snatch, making 190kg on his way to victory.

Ukraine’s junior world champion Kamila Konotop, who was fifth in Tokyo, made 95-114-209 in winning the women’s 55kg.

Ukraine finished third in the combined junior and under-23 medals table behind Russia and Armenia, with the ever-improving Italian team fourth.

Bianca Dumitrescu, centre, received a unique Fair Play Award ©Pablo González
Bianca Dumitrescu, centre, received a unique Fair Play Award ©Pablo González

Armenia won the men’s 81kg, 89kg, 109kg and over-109kg in the under-23 event.

Gor Minasyan, Lalayan’s 26-year-old national team mate, would be the best super-heavyweight in the world but for the presence of Lasha Talakhadze, the unstoppable multiple champion and world record-holder from Georgia.

Lasha was in Finland to train and as a special guest of the organisers, but he was not there to see Lalayan’s effort as he was being taken on a visit around "the official hometown of Santa Claus", as Rovaniemi sells itself.

In the junior super-heavyweights Enzo Kuworge of The Netherlands made it look easy with six from six.

Kuworge, who totalled 409kg when he finished sixth in Tokyo, did not need to lift anywhere near as much as he comfortably added the European title to the world junior title he won in May.

The 20-year-old made 175-210-385.

The Serbian team celebrate upon returning to Belgrade ©Serbian Weightlifting Federation
The Serbian team celebrate upon returning to Belgrade ©Serbian Weightlifting Federation

There were rare gold medals for Serbia, via Radmila Zagorac in the junior women’s 45kg, and Norway, whose Solfrid Koanda took the under-23 women’s super-heavyweights.

Athletes from Israel, Czech Republic, Finland, Denmark and Slovakia made rare visits to the podium through the week and Britain took gold and bronze in the under-23 women’s 55kg through Fraer Morrow and Catrin Jones.

But apart from Italy - which has improved from ninth to fifth to fourth in the past three Junior and Under-23 Championships - the dominant nations were from eastern Europe.

Armenia had five winners in the juniors, three men and two women, while Russia had four.

Artur Babayan, with a 365kg total in the junior men’s 96kg, Evgeniia Guseva with 103-127-230 in the junior women’s 71kg, and Daria Akhmerova, with 245kg in the under-23 women’s 87kg, were arguably the top performers for Russia.

For Italy, Giulia Imperio set a clean and jerk continental junior record of 101kg as she won the junior women’s 49kg with 82-101-183, and Giulia Miserendino took the Junior 64kg with 100-120-220.

Their junior men’s winners were Sergio Massida at 61kg with 126-154-280 and Cristiano Ficco at 89kg with 158-196-348.

There was a poignant victory for the Romanian Bianca Dumitrescu, who was presented with a unique Fair Play Award by Lasha and Santa.

Dumitrescu should have competed in the under-23 women’s 45kg, where she was a strong medal contender, but was temporarily in isolation with the entire Romanian team after a false COViD-19 positive for a team mate.

The amended result of the false positive was not provided in time for her to make the official weigh-in. 

Instead she lifted alone between sessions, but her results could not count.

Milan Mihajlovic, secretary general of the European Weightlifting Federation, praised the "correct and impeccable behaviour in the spirit of the sport" of Dumitrescu and the Romanian Weightlifting Federation.