The First Thirty Years of Womenís Weightlifting

1984. Each story carries and conveys a wealth of human feelings, science and conscience, reason and emotion. This story then, like many others, is rich, intense and above all, experienced through emotions, sweat, joy and pain, encompassing the full range of human resources. It all began in 1984, when the IWF Congress approved the practice of womenís weightlifting, including it in its statute and in the technical regulations of the 1984-1988 Olympic Cycle. Furthermore, the term ďfor men onlyĒ was abolished at the IWF Congress in Los Angeles, thus opening the doors definitively for women in weightlifting. Details such as weight categories, weigh-in procedures, referees and equipment all had to be resolved before the official competitions took place.

1986 - The first international tournament

The first IWF international female tournament was organised in conjunction with the Pannonia Cup in Budapest, on 21-23 March 1986. A couple of years prior to this event, women lifters were already very active at national level. Championships were organised in the USA, China, India, Australia and in various European countries. The first official competition organised by the IWF in Budapest, saw the participation of 23 women, representing China, Hungary, Great Britain, Canada and the USA. Americaís Arlys Kovac, achieved the best technical result, with a 75 kg performance in the snatch and 90 kg in the clean and jerk 67.5 kg category.

1987 - The first Womenís World Championship

The following year, Budapest organised the first Womenís World Championship. It was only natural that the American Weightlifting Federation should host this first World Championship at Daytona Beach, Florida, because female weightlifting in that country had already developed to a very high level, both in terms of organisation and in sporting success. 100 participants from 23 countries took part, 38 from European nations, representing Great Britain, Spain, Norway, Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, (here we are!), France, Finland and Iceland. Eight Nine of the winners came from China, and one from the United States of America, Karyn Tarter (nee Marshall).

1988 - The first European Championship

The first European Senior Championship was organised in 1988 in San Marino by the EWF; the driving force of the organising committee was Marino Ercolani Casadei. 67 women from 13 nations competed. Present in San Marino for this first continental championship organised by the EWF were: Italy, Greece, Great Britain, Finland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, San Marino and Norway. Among the winners were Maria Christoforidi, Greece and Milena Trendafilova, Bulgaria. These two women went on to become two of the most successful female lifters in the history of European weightlifting, along with Hungaryís Maria Takacs. Italy won its first gold in the 48 kg category with Genoan, Roberta Sforza. The 1989 and 1990 editions were organised following the same formula, in other words, a separate championships from the menís. Then in 1991 in Varna, a womenís competition was held along with the European Junior Championships for male athletes. Only from 1998, in Riesa, Germany, did female athletes compete at the same time and in the same place as their male counterparts in the Senior Championships. The biggest turnout of women recorded at a continental championships was the 2004 edition in Kiev, Ukraine, when 110 athletes took part, mainly because of the fact that the Championships was an Olympic qualifying event. Strong weightlifting nations such as Russia and Poland brought female teams to the Europeans in 1993 and 1996. Valentina Popova is one the most famous Russian female lifters, whereas Agata Wrobel is to date the most wellknown female Polish weightlifter. Today, the EWF has no less than 45 affiliated federations, each representing a country and all with a female weightlifting section.

2000 -Womenís Weightlifting at the Olympic Games

The IOC admitted womenís weightlifting into the Olympic Games for the first time in Sydney in 2000. This first edition marked the dawn of equality with menís weightlifting. In Sydney, no less than 85 female lifters from 47 countries competed for a place on the podium. 26 of these hailed from 14 European nations. No European athlete took home a gold medal, however, Popova (Russia), Markus (Hungary) and Polandís Wrobel, all won silver, whereas Greek lifter, Chatziioannou clinched a bronze. The statistics of the 2004 Athens Games were exactly the same of the 2000 edition: 85 female lifters from all over the world: 28 from 11 European nations. This time the Europeans had better luck: 2 gold, Taylan, from Turkey, in the 48 kg category, and Skakun, from Ukraine won gold in the 63 kg category.

1998 - European Junior Womenís Championships

The first Junior Womenís Championships was organised in Sofia, Bulgaria, in conjunction with the European Junior Menís Championships in 1998.

1994 - The first European Womenís Under 16 and Youth Championships

Once again the EWF made another successful step with regard to female weightlifting. The first European Under 16 Championships was held in 1991 in Kosice, Slovakia, open only to male athletes 14- 16 years old. In 1994, in Ljubljana, the girls joined their peers and it was a resounding success: 39 girls from 12 countries took part. Since then the number of girls has been on a constant increase. Dortmund, Germany 2003, registered the highest number of female competitors, 94, to be precise. In 2013 the EWF introduced the U15 category in Klaipeda, at these Championships we had 95 women competitors.

In 2003, the title of the event was changed to European Under 17 Championships.

You have no doubt got the message: these are not just dates, they are stories of dates and data: before and after stories, stories of women who changed the way of interpreting sport and indeed, life. They paved new roads: in lifting weights, they also raised awareness of who they were and what they were doing. They made it clear that muscular strength was not taboo for women, it was a gateway to growth and fulfilment. In sport, as in life, strength was everything and it was becoming more and more evident. They explored new and undiscovered paths: it was a beautiful understanding and enlightenment. Training led to knowledge and experience. Sport improved everything, because there was the basis for growth and for studying the growth of performance: athletes that wanted to succeed and that could, simple and straightforward means of training, truly significant. It was a pioneering age, a Once Upon a Time in the West moment. But it also stood for progress, breaking down barriers. Obstacles and difficulties. It was a moral and ethical journey that is the soul of sport today. It started from far away, taking little steps that soon became bigger and more confident. Tomorrow it will run, of that we can be certain. It will run and lift weights, thatís how training makes progress. But under those weights, thereís a good head on the shoulders.


EWF Scientific Magazine Year 1 Number 2-August-December 2015


Antonio Urso

EWF President