EWF President Antonio Conflitti, left, and secretary general Milan Mihajlovic at the EWF Congress in Armenia ©Brian Oliver

Weightlifters in Europe will have a bigger voice and a seat on the continental federation Board after a "very important moment" for the sport in Yerevan, Armenia.

Members of the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) approved a new Constitution at their Congress at the Hilton Hotel in Armenia’s capital, host city for the continental championships that begin here tomorrow.

There has been progress on several fronts by the EWF, including the launch of a coaching licence project that has 100 per cent support from members, a strengthening of ties with the European Olympic Committees that could lead to weightlifting becoming a part of the European Games in 2027, and a new Athlete of the Year award and much improved website as part of enhanced media operations.

The most significant change, however, is the new Constitution featuring improved governance which aligns the EWF directly with the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

"I am proud that Europe will be the first continent to adopt a Constitution in line with the IWF one," said Antonio Conflitti, the EWF President who pushed very hard for his Board to agree on the new Athletes Commission and voting rights for its chair.

"This is a very important moment for our European weightlifting community."

The new Constitution features a strong vetting process for electoral candidates as well as closer ties with athletes.

Until yesterday's vote the EWF had an Athletes Commission composed of officials and coaches rather than athletes - a quirk of how things were done in the past.

Now the Board will consider the best way of creating an athletes-only Commission to sit until its next Electoral Congress, probably in the first half of 2025, when formal athlete elections will take place.

The Commission’s chair will sit on the EWF Board.

IWF Athletes Commission chair Forrester Osei said the greater presence of athletes on the EWF's Board was
IWF Athletes Commission chair Forrester Osei said the greater presence of athletes on the EWF's Board was "a very important moment" for the sport ©Forrester Osei

Forrester Osei, chair of the IWF Athletes Commission who has been talking with Conflitti since last year, said: "This is great news, it’s a very big deal for us.

"We’ve been fighting for a very long time, asking for a voice in continental federations.

"They are not the same as member federations - they must oversee that we have good continental championships, and establish effective development programmes so that each and every continent yields top quality athletes.

"For that to happen they need to hear the athlete’s voice, have the athlete’s vote, they need to understand that we are working with them to keep the sport in the Olympic Games and also to open up better opportunities for young athletes coming through.

"So it is great to know that the EWF has taken the initiative to adopt a Constitution that aligns with the IWF, to welcome the Athletes Commission.

"Let’s hope this is a stepping block for the other four continental federations to hear our voice and to align themselves in the same way.

"Athletes need to be heard and their views need to be responded to in the right manner.

"They need to take us seriously, just like the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is doing.

"We look forward to seeing more changes in our sport in the coming weeks, months and years."

The coaching licence project, which was launched in Sweden in March was another highlight in a year of progress for the EWF.

The Opening Ceremony of the European Weightlifting Championships was held in Yerevan today ©Brian Oliver
The Opening Ceremony of the European Weightlifting Championships was held in Yerevan today ©Brian Oliver

Although it will be a global scheme the EWF, whose Coaching Committee chair Colin Buckley has been its main driver, was entrusted by the IWF with launching the pilot programme.

"It is a great result achieved for the development of a more modern Olympic weightlifting and one more step taken for the fight against doping," Conflitti told delegates in Yerevan.

He said the EWF would organise a demonstration event and a promotional stand at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Maribor, Slovenia in July and that weightlifting will hopefully feature at the 2027 European Games, for which a host city is yet to be announced.

Conflitti, a successful businessman who is a dual national Italian-Moldovan, took over at the EWF 16 months ago after what he called "a period of unprecedented crisis".

The former President Maxim Agapitov from Russia - who attended the Yerevan Congress along with a delegate from Belarus ­- left his role when the EWF Board turned against him after he used the EWF website to make personal criticisms of rival delegates.

Since then, Conflitti said: "Many difficulties have been faced and overcome with excellent results."

The acceptance of Portugal as a full member after many years of absence took the number of EWF members to 45.

The winners of male and female EWF Athlete of the Year were Lasha Talakhadze from Georgia, the super-heavyweight Olympic and world champion, and Solfrid Koanda, who became Norway’s first female world champion last December.

The awards were organised in collaboration with AIPS, the International Sports Press Association, as part of an attempt to better promote weightlifting.

Conflitti gave special thanks to EWF management team members Milan Mihajlovic, the EWF general secretary from Serbia, Buckley from Ireland, and legal adviser Oren Shai from Israel.