The Classic World Championship is without a doubt the most watched and popular competition that is currently run by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). Due to the attention it receives, it attracts most of the competitive lifters in each class and this makes for exciting competition in almost every class.
The location is Minsk, the capital city of the former Soviet Republic, Belarus, hosting its first ever World Championship. From a lifting perspective, Belarus’ most decorated raw lifter is currently Aliaksandr Hrynkevich-Sudnik (-74kg) who is the 2016 world champion in the -74kg class but is not nominated this year, unfortunately. Belarus aren’t as competitive in the women’s division with the rest of the world but their most competitive lifter is Sniazhana Zubko (-84kg) who could potentially break the world record deadlift, currently standard at 225kg / 496lb, more on her later.
Without any delay, let’s delve into the almost 100 lifters in this division spread over 7 weight classes!
-47kg Class. My pick: Heather Connor (USA)
There’s a big absentee here and that is the best female raw lifter to have ever lifted, Wei-Ling Chen (Chinese Taipei) and due to World Games commitments, I’m not surprised she isn’t competing. Also not nominated is 2016 champion Maria Luisa Vasquez (Puerto Rico) as she prepares for the World Games, like Chen. Nominated first is recent Equipped Bench Press World Champion Hanna Rantala (Finland) at a 380kg / 837lb total followed by Heather Connor (USA) at 375.5kg / 827lb and Kristine Almroth (Sweden) at 370kg / 815lb. Let’s breakdown each movement to see where each lifter stacks up.
Squat, Current WR: 152.5kg / 336lb – Wei-Ling Chen (Chinese Taipei)
Chen’s WR looks safe for another year this year but for gold I like Heather Connor! Her and Almroth are nominated at 135kg / 297lb which were both done at a similar time, Connor’s done at the Arnold’s in early March while Almroth’s lift was done in mid-March at Classic Europeans. However, with Connor still a newbie to low bar squatting and being able to hit 140kg+ in training, I’m confident that her progression will be quite large from the Arnold’s and it’ll be enough to hold off Almroth and Rantala.
Connor squatting 143.5kg / 315lb for 3 singles in training!
Bench Press, Current WR: 93kg / 205lb – Hanna Rantala (Finland)
No surprises for the win here but current WR holder Hanna Rantala looks relatively unchallenged for another 3-lift Bench Press world title. She’s back down to -47kg this year after doing Classic and Equipped Bench World’s in the -52kg class this year, winning both of them. Her current world record was set in Killeen at 2016 Classic World’s and it was really smooth! She seems to perform better, especially in Bench, in the -47kg class and having her single-lift WR being beaten at Classic Bench World’s by Justyna Kozdryk (Poland) at 95kg / 209lb, I think she will look to chip that here. Rantala is competitive on total though so she’ll have to get her third attempt going into deadlift which is her weakest movement, like most elite bench pressers.
Rantala’s current 3-lift Bench Press WR with 93kg / 205lb
Deadlift, Current WR: 175.5kg / 386lb – Heather Connor (USA) and Total, Current WR: 407.5kg / 898lb – Wei-Ling Chen (Chinese Taipei)
On Deadlift, Heather Connor looks really comfortable to take gold here but the real conversation is with total. Because Connor will be the biggest deadlifter, she will know exactly what she needs to win and that is a big advantage to have at a world championship. Heather has been in this situation before, in 2016, where she needed 178kg / 392lb to beat Maria Luisa Vasquez (Puerto Rico) but she missed at the knees. She will certainly go for the win if needed here but she will need something over 160kg / 352lb to seal the deadlift gold. Rantala will be leading on sub-total followed by Almroth most likely which means that their job is easy, get as much as possible from the deadlift and push Heather as far as they can. I still think that Heather will come out last and pull for the win which should be above her world record!
Heather Connor pulls 175.5kg / 386lb for her first ever WR at the 2017 Arnold Sports Festival Grand Prix!
-52kg Class. My pick: Marisa Inda (USA)
One of the best battles in the female competition will begin on the first day with the -52kg class having, realistically, 3 lifters capable of winning the championship. Three-time world champion, Sofia Loft (Sweden), has not been nominated so the battle between current WR holder in total, Marisa Inda (USA), current WR holder in Squat, Elizabeth Craven (Australia) and current European record holder in total, Olga Golubeva (Russia) will be epic and one not to miss.
Squat, Current WR: 155.5kg / 342lb – Elizabeth Craven (Australia)
In Squat, I pick the current WR holder and the pride of Australian Powerlifting, Elizabeth Craven. Liz’s most recent meet was the 2017 Pacific Invitational in Sydney where she squatted brilliantly adding 1.5kg to her previous WR that she set at the Arnold Grand Prix. She does face some serious competition from the Americans with Marisa Inda seeming to get better and better when she competes so we don’t really know what she will be capable of and Sioux-z Hartwig-Gary who is always competitive on Squat and manages to just keep breaking open WR’s at the age of 49! A slight outsider will be Golubeva with her best currently at 145kg / 319lb set at Classic Europeans, I think she will need something over 150kg / 330lb for a medal.
Liz’s current WR Squat which she hit at the 2017 Pacific Invitational with 155.5kg!
Bench Press, Current WR: 105kg / 231lb – Anna Filimonova (Russia)
In Bench Press, I like Golubeva, current M1 WR holder with 102.5kg / 225lb and is certainly capable of the open WR on her day. She may need to be strategic here if she does go for the open WR as it could reduce the amount that she needs to deadlift if she attempts the correct chip to the WR. So I think she will comfortably win gold but this lift is incredibly important for her so that she is in the running for gold on the total.
Golubeva’a 2017 European Championship performance including her M1 WR Bench Press at 102.5kg!
Deadlift, Current WR: 190kg / 418lb – Joy Nnamani (Great Britain) and Total, Current WR: 430kg / 947lb – Marisa Inda (USA).
Deadlift is an interesting one as current WR holder, Joy Nnamani, returns to the -52kg class having been in the -57kg class this year. She almost bombed on deadlift at Europeans but set a -57kg WR with 190.5kg / 419lb at the Reykjavik International Games. Considering she won’t be incredibly competitive on total, I think she will be looking to take deadlift gold while everyone tries to put in lifts for the total win.
Joy Nnamani's current WR in this class with 190kg at the 2016 Arnold Sports Festival, Spain.
Deadlift becomes interesting for everyone else to solidify the world championship and I really like Marisa Inda to take the championship because of her numbers accumulated on sub-total along with a solid deadlift. She smashed it at the Arnold’s this year hitting a 187.5kg / 413lb to seal a 430kg / 947lb WR total which added 6kg to Liz Craven’s WR total and it looks to be getting bigger and bigger. Craven’s deadlifts looked shaky at the Invitational so she will need something close to 190kg / 418lb to beat Inda in my opinion.
Inda's full-meet from the Arnold Grand Prix with her 430kg WR total!
-57kg Class. My pick: Maria Htee (Canada)
Another really close encounter, the -57kg class offers competition that will be thrilling from beginning to end. Current WR holder in total Jennifer Millican (USA) will attend her first ever Classic World Championship but isn’t the favourite as a roaring Maria Htee (Canada) is in form and ready to smash some WR’s en route to her first World Championship. Htee should have won last year, but bombed on deadlifts to easily give four-time champion Inna Filimonova (Russia) the victory. Let’s see how the lifters match up in each discipline.
Squat, Current WR: 174kg / 383lb – Inna Filimonova (Russia)
Squat is tough to decide with current WR holder Inna Filimonova nominated at a conservative 167.5kg / 369lb but you can’t look past Canadian national champion, Maria Htee with her nomination at 181kg / 399lb, 7kg over Filimonova’s WR. Her 181kg Squat was done at the Arnold’s in the -63kg class, she 200g over but it may affect what she can do on the day. Filimonova is nowhere near as active on social media as Htee so we don’t really know what she is going to be capable of, last year I thought Htee had it comfortably but Filimonova managed to add 1.5kg to WR to beat Htee by 1kg. Don’t rule out Jennifer Millican as well who is nominated at 167.5kg / 369lb which is certainly competitive if Filimonova and/or Htee have a shocker. My pick however is Htee who has looked to have taken a massive step up in her squat and I expect a solid gold for Canada.
Htee with her 181kg North American record in the -63kg class at the 2017 Arnold Sports Festival!
Bench Press, Current WR: 115kg / 253lb – Hartati Sri (Indonesia)
On bench, I really like Hui-Chun Wu (Chinese Taipei). She is nominated at 105kg / 231lb which is 2kg higher than Htee and a further 5kg behind Danish lifter Cornelia Larsen. Wu is one of the best technical bench pressers going around, like most of the Taipei athletes. Her nomination is from World’s last year where she won gold on the bench, 105kg was right on her limit and she definitely didn’t have any more left on the day. I think she will need to hit 105kg to hold off Htee but I’m not sure how much more she will have left. She recently hit an incredibly comfortable, opener worthy 100kg / 220lb in a meet in Taiwan so she could be good for 107.5kg / 237lb! She’s a WR standard deadlifter but needs as much as she can on bench if she stands a chance of winning the entire event.
Wu’s full meet from 2016 Classic World’s including her 105kg gold medal winning bench press.
Deadlift, Current WR: 190.5kg / 420lb – Joy Nnamani (Great Britain) and Total, Current WR: 450kg / 992lb – Jennifer Millican (USA)
Deadlift is a tough one to decide with former WR holder Inna Filimonova in the mix but hasn’t been in peak deadlift form for around 2 years now but Htee, Millican and Wu are all potential gold medal winners. Wu is the defending deadlift champion from last year and I think from her incredible experience at meets of this level, I pick her to win deadlift gold (shown above). But the battle for total is what is more interesting and I really like Htee here as she has switched to sumo since her bombing at 2016 World’s and it looks so much smoother. She looks in control of her movements and is able to match it with the best deadlifters in the world. There could be 4 lifters that could break Nnamani’s recently set WR here and I think the winner will have to go over it to put themselves ahead of everyone else.
Htee to win comfortably, if she has a good meet.
Htee’s nominated 188kg deadlift from 2017 Canadian Nationals where she totaled 459.5kg, 9.5kg above the WR total.
-63kg Class. My pick: Ivana Horna (Slovakia)
There is a big lifter missing from this list and it is three-time Classic World Champion and the best Classic lifter from 2016, Jennifer Thompson (USA). Although Thompson’s absence is a bit disappointing from a viewer’s perspective, it does not mean that the competition will be any less exciting. Current European champion, Ivana Horna (Slovakia) is a constant improver in this class and is certainly competitive to break Thompson’s WR total, currently at 486kg / 1,071lb. Maria Dubenskaya (Russia) who is a multiple-time equipped bench press world champion and equipped European champion is in the mix too! Her classic results are a bit behind, only managing two 5th place finishes in 2014 and 2016. It’s going to be a close battle between these two, let’s see how each movement breaks down.
Squat, Current WR: 182.5kg / 402lb – Rosa Castro (Ecuador)
Squat is interesting as the top seed is a lifter making her World’s debut, Canada’s Christine Castro, nominated with 172.5kg / 380lb. Castro is Canada’s national champion in this class but only hit a 157.5kg / 347lb squat at Canadian Nationals. Because of this, I like Ivana Horna for gold as she is just on fire at the moment hitting a cruisy 165kg / 363lb in training recently and hitting 167.5kg / 369lb at European Classics is giving her a lot of momentum moving forward. Dubenskaya is also a great squatter, nominated at 165kg which is 15kg above her best squat in international competition, 10kg above anything I can find on film so who knows what she will be capable of. Horna is just getting better and better and I can’t see anyone stopping her in this lift.
Horna’s 167.5kg Squat from European Classics back in March, 2017.
Bench Press, Current WR: 141.5kg / 311lb – Jennifer Thompson (USA)
I don’t think anyone will break Jennifer Thompson’s WR bench as long as the records are not reset and Thompson is still lifting. So the one lifter who will be close to it is former equipped WR holder in Bench Press, Maria Dubenskaya (Russia). At one stage, she could even bench more than the great Larysa Soloviova (Ukraine). Her classic bench is still world class and if it wasn’t for Thompson, she would probably hold the WR. She is nominated at 125.5kg / 276lb which sounds like a Russian record but I have no film of it anywhere. Dubenskaya will be relatively unchallenged here I think but she will need to bench big if she wants to hold off Horna on deadlift.
Dubenskaya’s 2016 National Championship performance, including her 115kg / 253lb bench, her current international best.
Deadlift, Current WR: 221kg / 487lb – Kimberly Walford (USA) and Total, Current WR: 486kg / 1,071lb – Jennifer Thompson (USA).
Gold on deadlift will go to Horna, no doubt in my mind about that. Her 215kg / 473lb deadlift at the 2017 European Classics is the biggest deadlift by a -63kg lifter since Kim Walford hit her 221kg WR in 2013! What is important is the total and I think Horna will wrap up the deadlift gold on her first or second attempt then she will start pulling away from Dubenskaya. As I have said before, being the better deadlifter has a HUGE advantage in big competitions as they will go last and put exactly what they need on the bar. Some lifters perform better in this scenario, while others don’t and the reality is, Horna has not been tested like this before. Every time that she has attempted a third attempt deadlift, it is not to improve her position on the total and this added pressure could make her or break her. If she has the meet won, she may even attempt a new WR!
Horna’s European record 215kg deadlift, for a European record 477.5kg total.
-72kg Class. My pick: Kimberly Walford (USA)
This will be nice and quick. Kim Walford is a 5-time Classic World Champion, owner of the largest deadlift Wilks of all women and frequently has held the best total Wilks from the IPF rankings. Walford won’t have it easy this year with Ana Castellain (Brazil) returning to the -72kg class after her win in the -84kg class in 2016. Outsider Isabella von Weissenberg (Sweden) could surprise a few on her total as her bench and deadlift are getting better and better.
Squat , Current WR: 192.5kg / 424lb – Isabella von Weissenberg (Sweden)
There’s going to be a really tight battle here as current WR holder, Isabella von Weissenberg, battles former WR holder Ana Castellain which could see several changes to the WR. Castellain’s nomination is 187.5kg / 413lb which is 10kg down from what she did in 2016 as an -84kg while von Weissenberg is nominated at her WR squat from Classic Europeans with 192.5kg. This will be Ana’s first big meet since her Equipped World’s win last year and I think she has the experience and strength to go higher than von Weissenberg, she will need it if she wants to hold off Walford on deadlift.
Castellain’s Silver medal winning Squat from 2016 with 197.5kg at 74kg bodyweight, currently 5kg over von Weissenberg’s WR.
Bench Press, Current WR: 144kg / 317lb – Jennifer Thompson (USA)
Castellain looks really good on bench too. She is fantastic in equipment having the single-lift and 3-lift WR’s currently at 178kg / 392lb. Out of equipment, she hit 125kg / 275lb last year at 74kg bodyweight which is 2.5kg higher than her best ever raw bench way back in 2014. I think she is good for 125kg at this bodyweight. She won’t have it easy though as USA’s Chelsea Savit has been in fine form on bench, currently owning the American record at 118kg / 260lb so if Castellain has a sub-par session, Savit could steal the gold.
Castellain hits 127.5kg / 281lb in in Brazil in April, 2017!
Deadlift, Current WR: 243kg / 535lb and Total, Current WR: 540kg / 1,190lb – Kimberly Walford (USA)
No surprises here either, Kim will take the deadlift gold on her opener/second attempt. On total though, Kim is the huge favourite, but she will need to squat and bench well and if Castellain has the sub-total of her life, Castellain could win! Castellain’s weakest lift is deadlift and she usually misses on grip so she will need to hit as close to her limit as possible to push Walford to pull as much as she needs to win. A really close competition is going to be had here with each lifter needing an almost perfect performance to bring home the gold!
Walford’s current deadlift WR at 243kg set at the 2017 Reykjavik International Games in January!
-84kg Class. My pick: Ielja Strik (Netherlands)
Two lifters can win this class in my opinion, IPF Hall of Famer and multiple-time world champion in classic 3-lift, equipped 3-lift and bench press, Ielja Strik (Netherlands) or Canadian champion and 2016 junior world champion, Sara Cowan (Canada). Strik has a track record that is incredibly strong while Cowan is a junior lifter that is the future of this class. Strik lost her first classic world championship last year to Ana Castellain (Brazil) and due to her inconsistency on the platform in recent years, she is at risk of losing to Cowan who is still a junior and on her way up.
Squat, Current WR: 206kg / 454lb – Ielja Strik (Netherlands)
There are a few lifters who could take the gold here and I think it will require an increase to Strik’s WR. Strik is obviously in the mix who is usually good for something equal to or above 200kg / 440lb but can be as low as 185kg / 407lb like she was at 2016 classic Europeans. Cowan is up there too having hit 197.5kg / 435lb at World’s last year but only hit 187.5kg / 413lb at Canadian Nationals this year, she is however nominated at 200kg which is certainly competitive. An outsider in my opinion but someone who certainly has a chance for gold is Australia’s Yani Zhao who has been putting up some huge numbers as a light super-heavyweight where she recently hit 202.5kg / 446lb at the Sydney Pacific Invitational. She has also attempted the open WR in New Zealand last year so she certainly is capable of it. Her best squat as a super is 217.5kg / 479lb which is the largest number anyone in this class has squatted in any weight class. It’s going to be tight but I like Sara Cowan for gold with Strik second and Zhao third.
Cowan’s former Canadian record squat at 197.5kg back in 2015, it is now up to 200kg!
Bench Press, Current WR: 136.5kg / 300lb – Ielja Strik (Netherlands)
Strik has bench covered in my eyes. She’s the current WR holder as well as being so far above any lifter that is nominated. Except for Germany’s Silvia Szarvas who is nominated at 127.5kg / 281lb. This was done at the 2017 European Classics, however two months later she went to the Classic Bench Press World Championships and only managed 110kg / 242lb and missing 117.5kg / 259lb. Given this, I think Strik can have a bad bench session and still win gold.
Strik’s gold medal winning bench from the 2017 European Classics shown below.
Deadlift, Current WR: 225kg - Standard and Total, Current WR: 537.5kg / 1,184lb – Ielja Strik.
The deadlift record is the only open female classic WR that has not yet been surpassed with the closest being Sara Cowan at 218kg / 480lb and then Belarusian Sniazhana Zubko and Sebrina Davis (USA) both at 217.5kg / 479lb. Cowan and Zubko are nominated in this event and if anyone will break this record, it will be either of them. Cowan’s current junior WR is 212.5kg / 468lb while Zubko currently owns the open European record with her 217.5kg lift at the Classic Europeans this year. I’m picking Zubko for deadlift gold here just because it is the international platform where it counts and because it is her home platform, she will have a lot of support and should bring it home for the hosts!
Zubko's European Classics performance including her 217.5kg Deadlift nomination.
In regards to total, Strik will take a big lead from sub-total but deadlift is certainly her weakest lift and it was her downfall last year. If Cowan gets her lifts and leaves very little on the platform going into deadlift, she will have a great chance to overtake Strik. If the gap between them on sub-total is >20kg, I think Strik has it won.
Strik’s best ever raw total with 537.5kg for another open WR from the 2017 European Classics.
84kg+ Class. My pick: Bonica Lough (USA)
No surprises with this class, when Bonica Lough is nominated, you could almost bet your house that she will win. One of the best super heavyweight females to have ever lifted, she has a chance to complete a very illustrious quadruple crown of world championships this year. She already has one with the Classic Bench Press World Championship, she is nominated for the World Games and may do Equipped World’s in addition to this event. Let’s take a look at how she will dominate the event.
Squat, Current WR: 272.5kg / 600lb – Bonica Lough (USA)
Her enormous 272.5kg squat will forever live in Powerlifting history as the first woman to squat 600lb+ in knee sleeves. She is nominated at a 267.5kg / 589lb and she always seems good for anything over 260kg / 573lb so I think she has gold in the bag. The battle for silver is exciting though with Hailey Kostynuik (Canada) and Fang-Yun Su (Chinese Taipei) very close on nominations and they very close at this meet last year. Kostynuik finished with 232.5kg / 512lb while Su finished with 235kg / 518 and won silver. Kostynuik has since competed at the 2017 Canadian nationals where she hit 239kg / 526lb to increase her own Canadian record. I like Kostynuik for silver but Taipei can be very sneaky sometimes as they are nowhere near as active on social media as the North Americans.
Lough’s historic 272.5kg / 600lb squat at the 2016 Arnold Sports Festival!
Bench Press, Current WR: 151kg / 332lb – Bonica Lough (USA)
Lough is fantastic on bench too! Her 151kg single-lift and 3-lift WR is the largest load ever pressed by a female Classic Powerlifter. She’s nominated at 145kg / 319lb which is a load she always seems capable of in big meets and I don’t see her being caught at all. She hit a 142.5kg / 314lb second attempt at the Classic Bench Press World Championship back in April before attempting 151.5kg / 334lb but missing. The minor medals look very close but Emelie Pettersson (Sweden) looks comfortable for silver with a 125kg / 275lb nomination which was her number from her winning performance at 2017 Classic Europeans. Bronze should go to Anna Gavrilova (Russia) with her 120kg / 264lb nomination but don’t rule out Kostynuik and Su who are nominated at 114kg / 251lb and 115kg / 253lb, respectively.
Lough with her 151kg WR in Killeen, 2016.
Deadlift, Current WR: 238kg / 524lb – LeeAnn Hewitt (USA) and Total, Current WR: 646kg / 1,424lb
Can we just stop and think that the current open WR deadlift is held by an 18 year old girl who has just graduated from high school? Crazy. Anyway, Lough looks really good on deadlift as well and because the meet will be wrapped up after her first deadlift, I think she will attempt to chip Hewitt’s WR, after increasing her WR total. An up and coming deadlifter in this class is Kostynuik who is nominated second in this class with 220kg / 485lb! She looks comfortable to hold onto the silver medal while an awesome battle for bronze looks to be on the cards between Pettersson and Su, nominated at 212.5kg / 468lb and 205kg / 451lb, respectively.
Lough is obviously comfortable for the total win with Kostynuik second. Su and Pettersson will be battling for the total bronze as well as deadlift bronze by the looks of it which will be fantastic to watch!
Lough pulls 232.5kg / 512lb for a 646kg WR total in Killeen!
There we have it, a full preview of the open women’s event at this year’s Classic World Championship! Next fortnight will be the men’s competition which will go up earlier than usual due to the open competition beginning on Wednesday the 21st. Best lifters are always interesting to pick but I think Kim Walford will take it, but Maria Htee will be very close, because Kim competes later she should be able to deadlift the amount she needs to surpass Htee, as long as the championship has already been wrapped up.
Until next time, train hard, train smart and dominate on the platform.
Tim Davies – Team PB Powerlifting
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