Big-name champions will be among more than 260 of the strongest athletes from across North, Central and South America at the 2018 Senior Pan-American Championships next week.
Starting on Monday in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, talents representing a total of 26 countries will fight it out for a place on the podium and the chance to book their qualification ticket for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
Oscar Figueroa, Arley Méndez, Leidy Solís and Sarah Robles are just some of the world-beating lifters who will be on show.
Figueroa announced his retirement immediately after becoming Colombia’s first men’s weightlifting Olympic champion at the Rio 2016 Games. However, to the delight of his army of fans in his homeland, he is now stepping up preparations to defend his Olympic title in Tokyo in two years’ time and will compete in Santo Domingo in the 69kg bodyweight category.
Also, in the men’s, Méndez will aim for top spot again after securing Chile’s first ever medal at the 2017 IWF World Championships in Anaheim, USA by sweeping the board in the men’s 85kg category with clear victories in the snatch and clean and jerk.
However, he will be challenged by 17-year-old American Harrison Maurus, who is moving up a bodyweight category after ending a 20-year medal drought for the USA with a bronze in the 77kg category at the World Championships.
Brazilian star Fernando Reis, who finished fifth at the Rio Games and sixth at the World Championships, will be among the favourites in the +105kg category, while the outstanding Jorge Arroyo of Ecuador and the USA’s Wesley Kitts, who has a personality as big as his lifts, will be gunning for gold as they compete at 105kg.
The 94kg bodyweight category, meanwhile, will be one of the most competitive, with the likes of Nathan Damron, Wilmer Contreras and Paul Ferrin, Victor Quiñones, Serafim Veli and Jason Bonnick just some of the names in the running for medals.
No fewer than seven medal-winners from the World Championships will be participating in the women’s competition, including two world champions – Leidy Solís and Sarah Robles.
Solís topped the 69kg bodyweight category in Anaheim, becoming the first athlete from Latin America to stand on the podium in this category in the history of the event.
Robles, who will compete in the +90kg in Santo Domingo, won USA’s first gold medal at the World Championships since 1994 by breezing to victory in the snatch, clean and jerk and total score in the same category.
Ana Iris Segura of Colombia and Martha Rogers of the USA finished third in their respective categories at the World Championships and will be among the front-runners in the 48kg and 69kg.
Meanwhile Ecuadorian Neisi Dajomes will be hoping for the perfect gift just days after her 30th birthday as she aims to go one better in the 75kg after picking up a silver medal at the World Championships.
In a schedule packed full of enticing contests, a fierce clash is also brewing in the 90kg between Chilean María Fernanda Valdés, who claimed second place in Anaheim, and Crismery Santana, who picked up a bronze medal at the World Championships and will be cheered on by the home fans, as one of 19 competitors from the Dominican Republic across the men’s and women’s competitions.