Malta has competed for the first time in its history at the Weightlifting World University Championships from 20th to 23rd September. Despite having lifters participate in the Universiade Games twice in the past, this was the first time the MWA has participated at the yearly championships organized by FISU and the IWF. The event this year was held in Biala Podloska in Poland, and the Maltese national team were represented by two University students. Rodmar Pulis, who graduated with a degree in Physical education competed in the -85kg category and Yazmin Zammit Stevens who is graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Statistics competed in the -69kg category.
Yazmin was the first to compete, and found herself competing in the A group amongst the best student lifters from all around the World. The B group of her weight class contained 9 athletes and competed earlier that day, which means she had the advantage of knowing what numbers she had to hit to outlift those girls. The A group contained the 8 lifters who posted the highest entry total kilograms prior to the meet, and Zammit Stevens was one of them. In the snatch part of the event, she made all 3 of her attempts at 79kg, 82kg and finally a new national record of 84kg. This lift put her ahead of all the B group lifters and 7th overall, with the gold place medal being won by a lifter from Japan who was successful with her lift of 90kg, followed by Czech Republic with 89kg and USA with 88kg. In the clean and jerk, evidently not only Yazmins preferred lift but also her stronger one, she challenged the rest of the field for a higher ranking place. Yazmin opened at 100kg which at that point would automatically place her above all the B group athletes were the best lifter in that group finished with a 99kg lift and also the Spanish athlete in the A group who finished with 98kg. She then went on to 103kg, challenging a better ranking place with the athlete from Czech Republic who had just been successful with her second attempt at 102kg. Unfortunately, her last attempt at 106kg was not successful as she closely missed out on the jerk. She ended up placing in 5th place overall in the clean and jerk, and her 187kg total put her in 6th place overall from 17 athletes. The gold medal for the total was won by the USA lifter, followed by Japan and Canada. This result is considered one of the most successful for Malta weightlifting ever, as the highest ranking for an athlete on the World Stage in recent time. Zammit Stevens out lifted athletes from Chinese Taipei, Australia, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Greece, Slovakia and Switzerland.
Despite competing in the -69kg category, which is the category she competed in at the Mediterranean Games in Tarragona last June, she weighed in at only 65kg. At the Mediterranean Games she weighed in at 68kg and finished with what was then her best total of 185kg. This confirms that she plans to move to the newly established lower weight class for the future competitions at 64kg. These championships in Poland were in fact part of her preparation for the first qualifier event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the World Championships in November. She will be flying to Rome for the entire month of October to train with the Italian national team at their Olympic centre leading up to this important qualifier. Her coach and herself will then fly to Turkmenistan a few days later were the World Championships are set to take place. This qualifier event is the first of many in the grueling 2 year process up to the Olympic Games, where both Yazmin and her coach will be traveling all around the world to train appropriately and compete with the hopes of making it to the final goal.
Rodmar Pulis, who has been praised to be having a great comeback to the sport this year, was hoping to use this opportunity to participate in the World University Championships to rebuild his performance confidence on the bigger international platform. It is safe to say he surpassed his expectations by not only performing like the true veteran that he is, but managing to also get a personal best lift. Pulis, who competed as a -85kg lifter, had suffered an injury to the shoulder while attempting a 145kg clean and jerk back in 2016 at the European Championships in Forde a few months before he was set to take on the Olympic stage in Rio. He then had to go through a long process of rehabilitation, and forfeit his olympic place to another athlete. However, as the true sportsman that Pulis is, he came out of his shoulder rehab ready to get back to where he left off. At these Championships, he finished with a snatch attempt of 109kg, and asked for 145kg on his last clean and jerk attempt; the same weight that put him out of the game in 2016. However this time round, he easily made the lift and went on to finish in 7th place overall outlifting athletes from Greece and Canada. This result improves his best from this year by 8kg from his result at the Small Nations Championships in Rekjavik from only a few months ago. He now aims to continue with this momentum as he will compete at the National Championships in December, where he hopes to regain his title as National Champion from before his injury.
Both athletes were accompanied by national team coach Jesmond Caruana, who will be having a very busy next few months traveling all around the world coaching different athletes at various events. After arriving back in Malta from Poland, he will now be accompanying Shelby Mangion Vassallo at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina this October, followed by a weightlifting tournament in Switzerland with athletes Tenishia Thorton, Shaun Ciantar and Roberta Tabone. Then he will be off to the World Championships in Ashgabat with Zammit Stevens.
The MWA are slowly making their mark not only in national sports history, however in world rankings around the globe. This continuous improvement and increased participation in numerous international events is something the MWA is extremely proud of and hopes to continue with this momentum for many years to come.
This competition was possible with the help of Malta University Sport Club, Malta Olympic Committee and Sport Malta.