Weightlifters unlikely to clash

One of the prime concerns of the national weightlifting team ahead of next year’s Athens Olympics has been the possibility of a clash between triple Olympic gold medalists Kakhi Kakiashvilli and Pyrros Dimas in the 94-kilogram division. But the fear seems to have subsided, despite the intentions of both to switch divisions again. Both athletes will be striving for a fourth Olympic gold medal, an unprecedented feat. The chances of a head-on clash between the two athletes now seems unlikely following the developments at the recent European Championships in Loutraki, west of Athens. Prior to the event, Dimas had declared that he would move up a division from his customary 85-kilogram category to 94 kilos. Kakiashvilli, too, had announced a change to the 105-kilo category from the 94-kilo division, a move that averted a domestic clash in the latter category. Now, following the Europeans, neither of the two athletes appears keen to follow through on these plans. Both intend to remain in their previous categories, which still prevents a head-on clash between the two. Dimas estimated that an overall lift of between 415 and 417.5 kilos would likely be needed to win an Olympic gold in the 94-kilo division, which, he believes is beyond reach. Dimas, who will have turned 33 by next year’s Athens Olympics, told Kathimerini that a 390-kilo performance by next year is feasible. «At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, I lifted 390 kilos overall while maintaining a 175-kilo performance in the snatch. At the time, I was preparing for a 400-kilo performance, with 185 kilos in the snatch and 215 kilos in the clean-and-jerk. I believe that, if all goes well, I can reach 390 kilos by next year,» Dimas said. «My aim will be to weigh about 91 kilos during training before I shed 6 kilos in the end,» he added. Dimas said the loss of 6 kilos over a short period of time would not pose any threat to his performance. «No, it’s not a problem. In Sydney, I lost 8 kilos,» noted the triple Olympic gold medalist. Observing the competition in the 85-kilo division at Loutraki, Dimas saw 30-year-old Zlatan Valev win a gold with a 382.5-kilo performance. Dimas said he believes his Bulgarian rival has further ability and could reach a 390-kilo performance by the Olympics. Valev, who lifted 385 kilos overall at last November’s World Championships, is stunning in the clean-and-jerk and less impressive in the snatch. At this stage, Valev appears to be the main rival to Dimas, who discounted the field’s others. The team’s coach, Christos Iakovou, who will make the final decisions of who competes where, has maintained a secretive stance on Dimas and Kakiashvilli for the Athens Olympics. According to reports, however, indications have shown that Iakovou intends to field Dimas in the 85-kilo category and Kakiashvilli in the 94-kilo division. Vanev, the Bulgarian competitor whom Dimas views as a major obstacle on his road to a fourth gold medal, said the triple gold medalist remained a force despite his advancing age. «Pyrros is No. 1, along with Kakiashvilli and [Halal] Mutlu [Turkey’s two-time Olympic champion]. They are the best weightlifters at present,» Valev said. «Pyrros will definitely have the advantage at the Athens Olympics. He is amazing. I’ve been following him for years and was impressed by what he achieved in Sydney.» Valev was referring to Dimas’s titanic struggle in the snatch and a successful lift with a third attempt. «From that point on, I knew he was going to win the gold medal. And that’s what happened. I hope he does switch to the 94-kilogram division so that we don’t clash in 2004. If Pyrros moves up to the 94-kilo division, he will have the main say there too. Should he finally stick to the 85-kilo division, he’ll be up against me. I also want Olympic gold,» Valev said. While assessing his capabilities, Valev, who holds the European record in the clean-and-jerk, said the snatch remained a problem for him.