The British Weightlifting Championships, held in Manchester, had an international feel to proceedings ©BWL

A woman who won an Olympic medal for Cameroon and a man who learned how to lift in his native Cuba are among the new British weightlifting champions.

With an Olympic hopeful for Jamaica, plus guest lifters from Iran and Cameroon taking part, there was an international feel to the 2023 British national championships, which ended in Manchester last week.

Emily Campbell, an Olympic silver medallist in Tokyo, was the star performer with a six-from-six total of 280 kilograms in the women’s super-heavyweights, while seven other members of Britain’s team for the forthcoming International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships were also on top of the podium at Manchester’s Central Convention Centre.

The guest lifters, both members of the IWF Refugee Team seeking British citizenship, were Clementine Meukeugni and Reza Rouhi.

The Jamaican team member was dual-national Omarie Mears, an IWF scholarship athlete who made a 266kg total in the 81kg category that was won by Chris Murray on 316kg.

Matthew Curtain, British Weight Lifting (BWL) chief executive and an IWF Board member said: "Diversity sits at the heart of what we do at British Weight Lifting.

"I am proud that we were able to open up space for IWF refugee athletes Reza Rouhi and Clementine Meukeugni on the platform, and delighted to celebrate the success of these athletes at our National Championships.

"Their presence and success is a living proof that sport is a great example of superation. Despite all difficulties and challenges they had in the past, their devotion for weightlifting gave a new sense to their existence.

Madias Nzesso on her way to winning 87 kilograms gold ©BWL
Madias Nzesso on her way to winning 87 kilograms gold ©BWL

"This is a sport for strong people but, more importantly, it also makes you stronger in life, and this can inspire and motivate our younger competitors."

Jenny Tong, the BWL Board member responsible for diversity and inclusion said: "It was fantastic to see such a strong pool of international talent at the British Championships.

"I would like to think that hosting IWF refugee athletes opened a door for many aspiring weightlifters. We don’t care what you look like, we just want to celebrate your skills and talents on our platform."

Meukeugni, a Commonwealth Games medallist for Cameroon who is living at a refugee hostel in Swindon, declined her last two attempts and made 95-110-205 in the 81kg category that was won by Emma McCready.

Rouhi, 28, who had a career-best total of 420kg in Iran, made 158-198-356 in the super-heavyweights won by Mackenzie Middleton on 325kg.

Neither of the guests was able to win medals as they do not have permanent status yet, a situation that may stop them competing at the World Championships in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia from September 4 to 17.

Florian Sperl, the IWF Board member responsible for the Refugee Team, is still trying to persuade British Members of Parliament to help the cause of the two weightlifters.

Meukeugni trains at the same club in Swindon, in western England, as the new 87kg champion Madias Nzesso, who had a sweep of national records on 110-130-240.

Britain's Emily Campbell made six good lifts in the women's super-heavyweight category ©BWL
Britain's Emily Campbell made six good lifts in the women's super-heavyweight category ©BWL

Nzesso, 30, was a 75kg bronze medallist for Cameroon at London 2012, since when she has not lifted in international competition. She now holds a British passport and was competing at the national championships for the first time in Manchester.

Another former Cameroon team member with British citizenship, Cyrille Tchatchet, did not lift in Manchester while he is focusing on preparations for the World Championships. Katrine Feklistova, the 81kg member of the women’s team, took the same decision.

Ramiro Mora Romero was the top male performer when he equalled Rouhi’s 356kg total despite weighing in 48kg lighter. He won the 96kg category, and set a national snatch record, on 160-196-356.

Romero, 25, came to Britain from Cuba with a travelling circus in 2019.

Familiar names were among the winners - Fraer Morrow, Laura Wheatcroft, Zoe Smith, Erin Barton, Sarah Davies, Campbell, Jonathan Chin and Chris Murray - all of whom are in the team for Saudi Arabia along with Jess Gordon-Brown, who was second to Smith at 64kg.

Campbell, 29, who had knee surgery and a back injury early this year before winning a third European title with her lowest total in four years, 253kg, was back to top form with six good lifts.

She also did a stint as a commentator.

Large crowds watched the action on two platforms and also followed all the results and action on a giant screen. Campbell and Zoe Smith joined in with Ramsey Kechacha, Olivia Blatch and Gurinder Hayer in providing commentary and analysis.