Yousef Al Mana has claimed that the International Weightlifting Federation is weaker without China ©Brian Oliver

On a day when China underlined its status as the strongest nation in world weightlifting, the head of Asia’s continental federation said the sport should make more use of what China can offer off the platform.

Yousef Al Mana, President of the Asian Weightlifting Federation (AWF) and an Executive Board member of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), also voiced his disappointment that so few of his fellow IWF Board members have been in Jinju this week to watch the Asian Championships, the best-quality continental competition in the sport.

China has won at least five gold medals at every Olympic Games this century, it has more weightlifters than any other country, the best development programme by far and its team has shown the benefits in Jinju by setting five world records on the way to victory in eight of the events to date.

China’s latest victory came today when Liu Huanhua won the men’s 96 kilograms.

"The strongest continent in weightlifting is Asia, and the strongest country is China," Al Mana said between sessions here at the Jinju Arena.

"China’s contribution to our sport makes them the leaders. 

"But China’s involvement in official positions at the IWF does not correspond with their results.

"It’s important to have the strongest with you."

There is no Chinese representative on the IWF Executive Board, or even on its key committees and commissions.

Al Mana at a podium ceremony with China's world record breakers and Chinese Weightlifting Association officials ©Brian Oliver
Al Mana at a podium ceremony with China's world record breakers and Chinese Weightlifting Association officials ©Brian Oliver

Meng Bo, deputy general secretary of the Chinese Weightlifting Association (CWA), is the most senior woman in the leadership of Asian weightlifting, having been elected AWF vice-president in January.

This week Meng Bo was also elected chair of the AWF’s Development Commission, and immediately showed what China can do to help others by announcing plans for a subsidised pre-Asian Games training camp in September.

The hosts will provide free places for 40 athletes - accommodation, food, coaching - as well as cut-price deals for others in Jianshang City, two and a half hours from the Asian Games host city Hangzhou.

The AWF also announced a $500,000 (£400,000/€458,000) sponsorship deal with the Chinese equipment manufacturer ZKC, which will provide a huge boost to athletes and to development of the sport around Asia.

Al Mana said China was capable of finding more sponsors for weightlifting than any other nation.

The Chinese technology giant Alibaba, one of the world’s biggest companies valued at more than $230 billion (£183 billion/€210 billion), is one of the main sponsors of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but, Al Mana said, it does nothing special for weightlifting.

"We are not strong enough as a sport in the IOC," said Al Mana, from Qatar. 

"If somebody from China was in a senior position on the IWF Board they could try to influence Alibaba in a way that would benefit weightlifting, and especially the athletes.

"It’s in the interests of our sport to have China involved, to have the strongest countries working for our benefit.

"Weightlifting is in a critical situation. We don’t want to be eliminated from Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032, we need all of us working together and we will work better if we have China working with us."

Al Mana described the Opening Ceremony as
Al Mana described the Opening Ceremony as "more like a festival of Korean culture" ©Brian Oliver

Besides China’s five world records, there have been six others for Thailand, Japan and China at junior and youth level.

Al Mana - who held senior roles in law enforcement and internal security and is now vice-chair of one of Qatar's biggest investment banks, and chair of the Parliamentary Financial and Economic Committee - is disappointed that more senior leaders from the IWF have not been in Korea this week.

"Their presence here would help to promote weightlifting," Al Mana said.

"It would make a powerful projection for our sport if they were here, but nobody asked to come apart from Attila Adamfi, the IWF vice-president."

Three continental Olympic qualifiers within a six-week period has made this a busy time for weightlifting. 

Next February there is a clash of dates, with the European and Asian Championships scheduled to fill the same dates.

"We will discuss this at our next AWF Board meeting in India in July, to see if Asia or Europe can move so they are not at the same time," Al Mana said.

His verdict on the Championships in Jinju is that they have exceeded expectations both on and off the platform.

"All these world records, and maybe more to come," he said.

"These Championships have been better than we expected from the Opening Ceremony onwards - it was more like a festival of Korean culture than a usual Opening Ceremony.

"Everybody is happy, the hosts have done very well.

"If it is always like this it will promote the sport, attract more people and help us to get sponsors."