Wang Zhouyu is in China's full complement of 20 athletes ©Getty Images

The 2022 International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships is on course to be the biggest in the sport's history after the publication of final entries today.

It is also likely to be one of the best in terms of quality, as 17 holders of current world records are down to compete, and three of the contests will feature two gold medallists from the Tokyo Olympic Games last year.

Although nearly half of the preliminary entries have withdrawn, and there are no teams from weightlifting powerhouses Russia and North Korea, just over 700 athletes are listed for the World Championships, which run from December 5 to 16 in Bogotá, Colombia.

The final number will depend on late withdrawals but apart from the 35 reserve entries, very few are expected to miss the first qualifying competition for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The previous highest entry was 626 at the 1999 IWF World Championships in Athens, an important qualifier for the Sydney 2000 Games where women competed for the first time.

Only one of the 14 Olympic champions from Tokyo is absent, the 38-year-old triple gold medallist Lu Xiaojun from China, who returned to training after a full year off only two months ago.

The World Championships will represent the start of Dika Toua's attempt to reach a sixth Olympic Games ©Getty Images
The World Championships will represent the start of Dika Toua's attempt to reach a sixth Olympic Games ©Getty Images

Another winner, Meso Hassona of Qatar, is down as a reserve and may not compete - but both men have more qualifying opportunities ahead of them.

China's other six Tokyo champions will line up in Bogotá, along with a formidable group of newcomers in a maximum team of 20.

The women's super-heavyweight champion and multiple world-record holder Li Wenwen will be China's strongest favourite, with Britain's Emily Campbell, a silver medallist in Tokyo, aiming to be her strongest challenger.

There are 20 weight categories in Colombia, compared with only 10 in Paris where the athlete quota has been cut to 120.

That has led to a surge of entries in certain classes - 64 in the women's 59 kilograms, and 52 in both the men's 89kg and the women’s 71kg.

Some of the non-Olympic categories have fewer than 20 entries.

That men's 89kg could be the highlight of the World Championships, featuring the remarkable Bulgarian teenager Karlos Nasar - who has posted an early total of 400kg - and his European rival Antonino Pizzolato from Italy, as well as the Chinese Tian Tao, the returning Rio 2016 85kg champion Kianoush Rostami from Iran, and the Tokyo 96kg silver medallist Keydomar Vallenilla from Venezuela.

Antonino Pizzolato is in a stacked men's 89kg field ©Getty Images
Antonino Pizzolato is in a stacked men's 89kg field ©Getty Images

Tokyo champions will be going head-to-head in three events, including the men's super-heavyweights after Akbar Djuraev of Uzbekistan, a winner at 109kg in Tokyo, confirmed his move up to compete against the multiple champion and world record-holder Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia.

Simon Martirosyan, who won silver for Armenia at 105kg and 109kg in the Rio and Tokyo Olympics, also moves up to the super-heavyweights.

In the women’s 59kg the multiple champion Kuo Hsing-chun of Chinese Taipei takes on Canada’s Tokyo 64kg winner Maude Charron, and China has two outstanding athletes in Luo Shifang and Luo Xiaomin.

A notable absentee is Polina Guryeva, who was rewarded with an apartment, a car and $50,000 (£43,000/€49,000) after she became Turkmenistan’s first Olympic medallist with a silver behind Kuo last year.

The other double-champion contest is the women's 81kg, in which China's Wang Zhouyu moves down from 87kg and Neisi Dajomes of Ecuador goes up from 76kg.

Eileen Cikamatana of Australia, Iryna Dekha of Ukraine and another Chinese lifter, Liang Xiaomei, make this an ultra-competitive category.

Host nation Colombia fields the maximum 20, but will be without the Tokyo 67kg silver medallist Luis Javier Mosquera, who injured his right hand at the Bolivarian Games in July.

Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Akbar Djuraev has moved up in weight class ©Getty Images
Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Akbar Djuraev has moved up in weight class ©Getty Images

The United States also sends a full team, including the Tokyo medallists Kate Nye and Sarah Robles, and the outstanding teenager Hampton Morris, a multiple youth and junior world record-holder at 61kg.

Egypt and Thailand, both barred from Tokyo for doping, send strong teams to Colombia and both will expect to win gold.

Oceania is strongly represented by Samoa, for whom Don Opeloge and Feagaiga Stowers will be medal contenders, as well as Cikamatana and Dika Toua of Papua New Guinea, who sets out on her attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games for a record sixth time.

Another name to look out for is Oscar Reyes Martinez, who competed once for Cuba but will make his debut for Italy, having married an Italian; he won the national 81kg title in impressive style this year.

The IWF had talked of using two platforms in Bogotá but the venue is unsuitable, although it will happen at next year's IWF World Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.