2017 Arnold Sports Festival Review and Top 10 Lifters to watch at the 2017 Classic Europeans!

Top 10 lifters to watch at the 2017 European Classics Top 10 lifters to watch at the 2017 European Classics
AuthorChristina McLoughlin
Publishedon March 15, 2017

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Estimated Read Time: 10-12 minutes

How great was the Arnold’s this year?! According to Goodlift, a total of 67 world records were broken across all weight and age classes which is just too many to analyse for this blog. So, I’m going to go through one moment in each big competition that stood out!

At the Grand Prix, Blaine Sumner (USA, 120kg+) Squats 505kg / 1,113lb and Bench Presses 410kg / 903lb en route to a 1,272kg / 2,804lb total, all world records. The biggest total and Wilks coefficient of all time was set once again by Blaine Sumner who just gets better and better. An absolutely outstanding performance by one of the best single-ply lifters to have ever lifted in the IPF. Congratulations Blaine!



At the Pro American, Ray Williams (USA, 120kg+) Squatted 477.5kg / 1052lb (open world record), Bench Pressed 235kg / 518lb and Deadlifted 392.5kg / 865lb (open world record) for an 1105kg / 2436lb total open world record.  Keep in mind that these are all raw numbers. Someone that is truly out of this world and just keeps getting better and better as a lifter and an athlete. I said this in the preview article, but with Matt Gary and Sioux-z Hartwig-Gary by his side, he is completely unbeatable. This will be on display at World’s in June where attempt selection is vital for winning championships, it was a big contributor to the USA winning best nation in Killeen for every age group in the men’s division and all but one age group in the women’s division.




At the Pro Bench Bash, Jennifer Thompson (USA, -63kg) chips her single-lift Bench Press world record with 142kg / 313lb! The best raw Bench Presser that has ever lived in this federation, Jennifer Thompson is proving time and time again that age is no barrier to progression. I think the best trait about her is that she knows that she can bench more than most men, but she has not once advertised this fact, just showing how great of a person she is and someone I respect immensely. A once in a generation lifter, still going strong at the age of 44!



At the Slingshot Pro Deadlift, Kimberly Walford (USA, -72kg) stole the show with a 257.5kg / 567lb Deadlift single-ply. In my opinion, Walford is in the same field as Thompson, a once in a generation lifter and is completely unstoppable on total. Kim’s best raw deadlift of 243kg / 535lb is the biggest absolute load a female has ever pulled in the IPF (which also includes the -84kg class and the 84kg+ class), and this equipped deadlift looks to be at least third behind 270.5kg / 596lb and 270kg / 595lb by Olga Gemaletdinova (Russia, 84kg+). Kim looks good for another World Championship in Belarus in June.


A post shared by Kimberly Walford (@trackfu) on



2017 Classic European Championship

Now we’re all up to date with the amazing performances at the Arnold Sports Festival, we now turn to the Classic Open European Championships which will be held in Thisten, Denmark! The Europeans don’t usually attract many high profile lifters as they are usually aiming to peak for the World Championships which this year is held in Minsk, Belarus. However, this year we have some big names nominated with world records certainly having the potential to be beaten including one of the biggest deadlifts from a male lifter you are likely to see this year!


Without further ado, let’s get on with the list.


Krzysztof Wierzbicki (-105kg) – Poland

Arguably the best deadlifter in the world right now, Krzysztof Wierzbicki comes into the Europeans off an up and down 2016 having pulled 395kg / 870lb equipped at the Arnold Sports Festival but also lost his first ever Classic World Championship to Mikhaylo Bulanyy (Ukraine) in Killeen due to a hip injury which was very obvious in his Squat. He has rehabbed perfectly and combining that with a jump to the -105kg class having competed in the -93kg class internationally since 2012, I’m expecting some huge numbers. His nomination of a 291kg / 641lb Squat, 197.5kg / 435lb Bench Press and a very conservative 375kg / 826lb deadlift (863kg / 1,899lb total) (Deadlift shown below) will be excellent to build on. Wierzbicki will be aiming to annihilate the deadlift world record which currently stands at 367.5kg / 809lb held by Eli Burks (USA), he might even open at 368kg / 810lb if he wants to attempt 400kg / 881lb which he has pulled in training. The total record has increased immensely to 885.5kg / 1,948lb by Garrett Blevins (USA) but is certainly within Wierzbicki’s reach with his immense deadlift. It will be a stacked year for Wierzbicki with him also nominated for the World Games in the SuperHeavy category (-120kg and 120kg+) in his home country of Poland to have another crack at an enormous deadlift, this time in single-ply equipment.

Antii Savolainen (-66kg) – Finland

2015 Classic World Champion and two time Classic European Champion, Antii Savolainen is nominated first in the -66kg class only 14kg ahead of Russia’s Sergey Skochek who returns to international competition after taking 2016 off and will be competing in his first European Championship. Savolainen is one of the best sumo deadlifters in the world and is great to learn from, also because he once held the world record deadlift in 2015 with 278kg / 612lb, which is also the current European record. He’s been very quiet on social media at the moment only showing a 245kg / 539lb sumo deadlift double this year which could mean something big may come up. He’ll need to be at his best to hold off Skochek so this battle will definitely be one to watch. 

Check out Savolainen’s 278kg deadlift to win the -66kg World Championship on the last lift of the session.



 Aliaksandr Hrynkevich-Sudnik (-74kg) – Belarus

In my opinion, one of the most underrated lifters on the international scene. Hrynkevich-Sudnik has dominated the -74kg class since he began competing internationally in 2013 taking out his first Classic World Championship. Since then he has put 46kg on his total setting 22 world records in the process. He is one of those lifters that is just up there with every lift, very rarely will take an individual lift gold medal at a World Championship but will end up on top at the end. Last year in Killeen, he looked so calm and collected as he added 17.5kg to his world record total with a 257.5kg / 567lb Squat, a 170kg / 374lb Bench Press and a 302.5kg / 666lb Deadlift (730kg / 1606lb total). Because there is no direct competition on total, I think he will either play this meet conservatively or attempt individual lift world records as he is close to the Squat and Deadlift world records.

Check out his WR total in Killeen in 2016!



Tony Cliffe (-120kg) – Great Britain

Another underrated lifter is Tony Cliffe who is currently Great Britain’s best Classic lifter on Wilks coefficient (yes, even in front of Owen Hubbard and Stephen Manuel in 2016, 2015 and 2014 at least). However, his competitiveness in the -120kg class has slipped with the incredible performances of Dennis Cornelius (USA) and Mohamed Bouafia (Algeria) in the past two years. Nominated first in front of Piotr Sadowski (Poland), winning this championship would mean Tony’s first ever International championship which would be great to see. Recently Tony finished third at the Classic World Championships in Killeen behind Bouafia and Cornelius with a 910kg / 2,006lb British record total which he has since extended to 912.5kg / 2,008lb at the British Classic. He currently holds all the British records, the European record in Squat (332.5kg / 733lb) and Total (910kg / 2,006lb) and the Commonwealth record in Bench Press (232.5kg / 512lb) and Total (910kg / 2,006lb). He’s been battling a leg injury leading into this meet but hopefully he can bring home the goods for Great Britain!

Check out his performance at the 2016 Classic World Championships!



Kim Gustafsson (120kg+) – Sweden

Kim Gustafsson may not be a household name and when you see his nominated total you can start to see why, 822.5kg / 1,813lb, a number that competitive -105kg lifters and some -93kg lifters can total. What makes Kim a lifter to watch is his deadlift. Kim has been chasing Brad Gillingham’s (USA) deadlift world record (375kg / 826lb) for years and looked really good to chip this record at this meet until Ray Williams (USA) destroyed the record at the Arnold’s. Kim’s goals have been re-assessed and he will be at least pulling for the European deadlift record which currently stands at 365kg / 804lb held by another one of my favourite deadlifters, Julian J. K. Johansson (Iceland) who recently won the ‘Heaviest Deadlift’ title at the Slingshot Pro Deadlift event at the Arnold. Gustafsson seems really keen to have a crack at 393kg / 866lb and I pick he will produce a fantastic attempt. Watch his Deadlift training including a 385kg / 848lb pull!



Olga Golubeva (-52kg) – Russia

Runner-up at the Classic World Powerlifting Championships behind the great Sofia Loft (Sweden), 47 year old Olga Golubeva is looking to cement herself further as a real contender in the -52kg class. Nominated at 418kg / 921lb which looks to be a total from a Russian meet, she is comfortably ahead of Hanna Rantala (Finland) and should win her first European Championship. Because of the lack of competition, we may see the Bench Press world record be chipped which is currently held by junior lifter Anna Filimonova (Russia) at 105kg / 231lb, Golubeva is nominated at 102.5 / 225lb and pressed 100kg / 220lb at World’s in 2016 so she may take the risk. With the likes of Loft, Liz Craven (Australia) and Marisa Inda (USA) all capable of over 420kg / 925lb on the total, this may be a really important meet for Golubeva as it could send a statement to her competitors that she is still in the mix for the world championship. 


Here is Olga in her last meet as a -47kg lifter pressing 91kg / 200lb at the 2014 Classic World Championships.


Hanna Rantala (-52kg) – Finland

Hanna Rantala is known for one thing, Bench! Usually competing in the -47kg class, she occasionally competes in the -52kg class in not so important meets (she did the same thing for the 2016 Classic World Bench Press Championships). Nominated at what seems to be a conservative 100kg / 220lb, she could also challenge Golubeva for the Bench Press gold medal at least, but also the world record, hopefully we see something huge from either lifter!

She currently holds the -47kg Bench Press world record with 93kg / 205lb! Watch that moment below!



Ivana Horna (-63kg) – Slovakia

Ivana Horna is slowly coming to take down the great Jennifer Thompson (USA)! She burst onto the scene in 2016 after winning the Europeans with a 445kg / 981lb total, followed by a second place finish at World’s behind Thompson with a 455kg / 1003lb total. She’s nominated at a massive 470kg / 1036lb which is just 16kg below Thompson’s world record total. With a competitive Squat (170kg / 374lb nomination) and a huge Deadlift (210kg / 462lb nomination), she looks to be very competitive for a world championship win over Thompson, something which I never thought I’d say. Her 210kg Deadlift nomination is quite close to the world record (221kg / 487lb) held by Kim Walford from all the way back in 2013 so to see that record broken would be epic!

Check out her 205kg / 451lb European record Deadlift!



Isabella von Weissenberg (-72kg) – Sweden

The Swedish sensation and current world record holder in Squat with 188kg / 414lb, Isabella von Weissenberg looks good on nominations to defend her European Championship! This is only her fourth international competition with her last competition being a very healthy second place behind Kim Walford (USA) with a 485.5kg / 1070lb total (along with the Squat world record). She comes into this meet looking for more experience as well as increasing her world record squat following an epic 190kg / 418lb Squat very recently in training. She said that she was disappointed as she wanted more so we may even see a 200kg / 440lb attempt which would make her the lightest female in the IPF to have squatted 200kg raw. A very vibrant lifter, she is always exciting to watch and with such an epic Squat, she will start the -72kg competition with a bang! Check out her 190kg Squat in training recently!



Joy Nnamani (-57kg) – Great Britain

Taking the step up to the -57kg class, Joy enters her first international competition in this class after a test meet at the Reykjavik International Games back in January where she smashed a 190.5kg / 419lb Deadlift world record. This chipped Inna Filimonova’s (Russia) record set back in Salo, 2015 . At only 25 years of age in 2017 as well as a new weight class, there is a lot of room to grow with Joy and she may not be as competitive on total as a Maria Htee (Canada), Filimonova or new total record holder Jennifer Millican (USA) but she will be someone to certainly look out for as she grows further into this class. I feel she certainly would be capable of a 200kg/440lb Deadlift which would be incredible to witness and I hope she does try it out if total medals are sorted. Certainly one for the future in this class and the Europeans are only the beginning for this talented lifter. 

Check out her 180kg / 397lb Deadlift in the -52kg class at this meet last year!


A post shared by Joy (@j_nnamani) on


There we have it, 5 men and 5 women all looking to make their mark in a meet which will serve as a lead in to the grand stage in Classic Powerlifting, the 2017 Classic World Powerlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus!


Until next time, train hard, train smart and dominate on the platform.


Tim Davies – Team PB Powerlifting

Instagram - @teampbpowerlifting

Facebook – Team PB Powerlifting

Email – t.davies@hotmail.com.au

AuthorChristina McLoughlin
Publishedon March 15, 2017