IWF President Mohamed Jalood was in attendance at the event ©BWF

Two Olympic gold medallists and a world champion were among the weightlifters who took to the streets this week to help promote the sport in Bahrain and raise the credentials of the Gulf nation as a future host of international competitions.

"I’ve never been to a competition like this before and I really enjoyed it," said the Iranian Kianoush Rostami, the Rio 2016 champion at 85 kilograms.

"I would like to see other countries trying something like this, fun competitions that help to promote our sport and let more people know about weightlifting.

"There was a really good feeling here."

Street weightlifting outside a high-end shopping mall was one of the highlights of the ongoing "Strength Week" in Manama.

Powerlifting, CrossFit, arm-wrestling and strongest man contests also featured.

Meso Hassona, who won 96kg gold for neighbouring Qatar at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, took part alongside Bahrain’s Lesman Paredes, a double world champion.

There were two continental medallists from Kyrgyzstan, Emil Moldodosov and Olympian Bekdoolot Rasulbekov, the Maltese lifter Anton Micallef and a host of local athletes.

The chair of the International Weightlifting Federation's (IWF) Athletes' Commision, Forrester Osei, was the MC for the event, which was attended by the IWF President Mohamed Jalood and the Asian Weightlifting Federation vice-president Abdullah Aljarmal.

IWF Athletes' Commision chair Forrester Osei of Ghana was the MC for the event ©BWF
IWF Athletes' Commision chair Forrester Osei of Ghana was the MC for the event ©BWF

"Being MC showed me how keen the public were to find out more about the sport - what’s going on, what are the lifts, how are they judged," said Osei, who is not yet fit to lift after suffering a serious arm injury at last year's World Championships but hopes to return to action at the IWF Grand Prix in Cuba in June.

"This sort of event is a chance to open doors, to involve the public and inspire young athletes to get involved.

"It’s a way of promoting weightlifting from a different perspective."

There are plans to stage the IWF Junior World Championships outdoors later this year in Guadalajara, Mexico, provided logistical challenges can be addressed.

"That would be great for getting added exposure for weightlifting," said Osei, who lifts for Ghana.

Another IWF Athletes' Commission member, the Olympian Yasmin Zammit Stevens from Malta, worked on social media presentation for the Bahrain Weightlifting Federation (BWF).

Categories included women, men, masters and "superstars", and the top lift was a 210kg clean and jerk by Rasulbekov, who finished sixth in Tokyo behind Meso.

Meso has enjoyed the interaction with other strength sports and said more collaboration with them would be a good way to attract newcomers to weightlifting.

He was also full of praise, for the second time in six months, for Bahrain as a host for international competitions, having been very impressed with the organisation of the Asian Championships last October.

Bahrain is one of five countries - Peru, Venezuela, Albania and Armenia are the others - bidding to host the 2024 IWF World Championships and Meso said, "We couldn’t find a better host than Bahrain, which is capable of setting a new level for hosting the World Championships."

BWF President Eshaq Ebrahim Eshaq and Olympian Yasmin Zammit Stevens from Malta were present at the event ©BWF
BWF President Eshaq Ebrahim Eshaq and Olympian Yasmin Zammit Stevens from Malta were present at the event ©BWF

He is preparing for the Asian Championships in Korea next month and may compete in Cuba in June too.

Rostami, 31, said he would wait and see how his body reacts when he gets down to serious training back in Iran over the next few weeks.

Eshaq Ebrahim Eshaq, the 31-year-old President of the BWF, said he had received a lot of good feedback about the street competition, which was also staged in 2021 and 2022.

"It was good to see Forrester and Yasmin involved when they were not lifting, the weather was perfect and we had a lot of engagement with the public.

"We were able to showcase Bahrain as a weightlifting venue, to market the sport to the public, and to give young lifters a rare opportunity to compete on the same stage as some of the sport's superstars.

"We look forward to hosting major international weightlifting competitions in the future."

Aljarmal, chief organiser of the Qatar Cup, said Eshaq had already shown himself to be a "very welcome young leader" in weightlifting and would welcome the Bahrain street competition as a regular fixture on the weightlifting calendar.

"Bahrain is in the middle of the world, central for all continents, and we know it can meet all the conditions for hosting a World Championships," he said.

The IWF Executive Board is due to discuss the 2024 World Championships bids at a meeting on March 30 during the World Youth Championships.

Albania will also have a chance to highlight its credentials as a bidder for next year, as it hosts the Youth Championships in Durres from March 25 to April 1.