Iran's Mir Mostafa claimed an unexpected victory when he won the men's 89kg category at the IWF World Championships in Riyadh ©IWF

Mir Mostafa claimed a famous and totally unexpected victory for Iran at the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships here when China’s big names in the men’s 89 kilograms Olympic category Li Dayin and Tian Tao had eight no-lifts between them in Riyadh.

Li and Tian Tao, both world record holders who stand first and third in the long list in the Paris 2024 rankings, were in trouble early and after two failures each they did not make the podium in the snatch.

Mir Mostafa failed with his first snatch and was sixth at halfway. He moved into contention with a 207kg opener in clean and jerk. 

Asked if he thought he might win, he said: "Absolutely not.

"I was just trying my best for a bronze medal, maybe a silver, and never even thought about gold. But there were so many no-lifts."

Tian Tao had three more of them and bombed out, and Li failed at 213kg with one attempt to come.

When Li made it to take the lead on 170-213-383 it looked as though China would have a fifth winner here, but Mir Mostafa had one attempt left and he made it for five good lifts in a row and a career-best 169-215-384.

"That was my best lifting in competition," said Mir, whose total will move him up to fourth in the rankings. His total is 4kg better than the 2016 Olympic champion Kianoush Rostami, who made 380kg at last year’s World Championships before being dropped from the Iran team in a rebuilding period this year.

This was only his second appearance at this weight, after lifting at 73kg and 81kg. It was 20kg better than his Asian Championships bronze medal performance behind Li and Tian Tao in South Korea in May. The Chinese pair finished 32kg and 23kg clear of Mir then.

"It was the result of months of hard work," said Mir, 23, in perfect English "learned from movies and TV."

The Iran delegation celebrate after Mostafa's victory in Riyadh ©IWF
The Iran delegation celebrate after Mostafa's victory in Riyadh ©IWF

He celebrated on the platform with Iran’s large coaching and support team and said: "This was a team effort. Hopefully there will be more medals to come."

Mir also lifted in Bogotá last year when he was still not fit after a back injury and failed to make a total.

He took his form and fitness to a new level in an intense preparation for these Championships, the Iranian Federation President Sajjad Anoushiravani explained.

"After the Asian Championships there were no holidays," said Anoushiravani, an Olympic medallist in 2012. "We have been in training camps since then, with good nutrition, good coaching, very professional, very progressive.

"Hopefully we will win more medals here."

Europe had the top two in the snatch - Andranik Karapetyan from Armenia and Marin Robu from Moldova, who were fourth and sixth in total, both improving their place in the rankings with totals of 377kg and 370kg.

Keydomar Vallenilla from Venezuela had a sweep of bronze medals on 171-210-381, which was 4kg lower than his best in qualifying. Another improver was Petr Asayonak on 371kg, a 3kg improvement for the individual neutral athlete from Belarus.

On a day when Oscar Reyes won Italy’s first world title since 1984 at 81kg, his team-mate Antonino Pizzolato, a Tokyo Olympic medallist, made a disappointing return from injury with three snatch failures and has yet to post a total in qualifying.

It was not a complete surprise given his long absence, and Pizzolato said: "I was fine physically and I was neither excited, nor worried, nor agitated, it just happened."

He is ready for a swift return to the gym "so much is my desire to reach the next Olympics."

The Chilean Arley Mendez was another possible medal contender among the entries but he had his accreditation withdrawn before the weigh-in and is out of Olympic qualifying.