Rakhat Bekbolat of Kazakhstan was among the country's winners at the IWF Youth World Championships ©Brian Oliver

Russia topped the medals table and Thailand won two golds on its return to international competition at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Youth World Championships, which ended in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia today.

As well as being the strongest team, Russia had one of the outstanding individual performers of the championships in 17-year-old Zarina Gusalova in the women’s 71 kilograms category.

Gusalova set two youth world records, a feat matched by two other lifters, the Americans Katie Estep and Hampton Morris in the women’s 55kg and men’s 61kg respectively.

Russia entered a team of 17 athletes and had six champions, four more than any other nation.

Added to their table-topping efforts at the recent European Junior and Under-23 Championships, it suggests that Russia is building a strong team for the future, having suffered in recent years because of its doping-tainted past.

Maxim Agapitov, President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation, told insidethegames: "The new generation of Russian athletes performed triumphantly at the championship in Jeddah.

"The guys consistently show a high professional level at international tournaments.

"I believe that there is also my merit in it as the head of the Russian Weightlifting Federation. We have done a lot of work to combat doping, carried out the necessary reforms.

"I'm sure Russian young athletes have a great future in clean sport, especially with such a strong coaching staff, like we have today. Way to go!

"I welcome strong athletes from other countries, the fight for medals is going on at the highest level. New world stars are being lit in front of our eyes.

"The organisers of the championship deserve the highest ratings. Saudi Arabia has become a new (host) country, which conducts international tournaments at the highest level."

Zarina Gusalova of Russia was among the outstanding individual performers of the championships ©Getty Images
Zarina Gusalova of Russia was among the outstanding individual performers of the championships ©Getty Images

Gusalova’s 103-123-226 - which was 21kg more than the 76kg winner, her team-mate Madina Kelekhsaeva - gave her world records in snatch and total.

The third female winner for Russia was Milana Kutiakina in the 55kg.

Russians won the lightest and heaviest men’s weight categories, 16-year-old Oleg Prokopev with 83-105-188 at 49kg and Aslambek Pliev, 17, with 150-190-340 in the +102kg super-heavyweights.

Their third male winner was Nikita Vagin at 73kg, with 130-161-291.

The United States, the only country with a maximum team of 20, was one of four nations to win two golds in total, the others being Colombia, Thailand and Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan had a 100 per cent record as it entered only two athletes, the multiple champion Rakhat Bekbolat and the women’s super-heavyweight newcomer Rafina Chalkarova, who made a total of 247kg.

The first American winner was 17-year-old Estep, a former gymnast who overcame a serious back injury six years ago but still has to undertake a rigorous warm-up routine to remain pain-free.

She finished 26kg clear of her nearest rival as she made 89-109-198, setting world records in snatch and total.

Estep’s six-from-six effort was arguably the top effort by a female, as her total was 17kg higher than the winner in the heavier 59kg category and only 10kg below the winning mark in the 81kg category.

She came within a few grams of lifting twice her own bodyweight in the clean and jerk.

Morris was 3kg behind after the snatch, in which Kaan Kahriman of Turkey set a youth world record on 123kg.

But the American pulled well clear in the clean and jerk, lifting more than two and a half times his bodyweight to finish 12kg ahead of Kahriman.

He set world records in clean and jerk and total.

President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation Maxim Agapitov praised the performances of the new generation of Russian athletes in Jeddah ©Getty Images
President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation Maxim Agapitov praised the performances of the new generation of Russian athletes in Jeddah ©Getty Images

There was also a snatch world record for the Indonesian Adi Nugroho with 111kg in the men’s 55kg.

Nugroho then failed with all three clean and jerk attempts at 127kg twice and 128kg, two of them overturned from good lifts by the jury.

As he had made 140kg in training Nugroho might have challenged Angel Rusev’s world record total of 248kg with a better start in the clean and jerk - but he finished without a total.

That left Patsaphong Thongsum of Thailand in first place on 99-124-223.

His team-mate Weeraphon “Wave” Wichuma won the 67kg with 128-160-288 and for once Thailand finished a championships with two golds for men and none for the women. Most of their past successes were achieved by women.

Senior lifters from Thailand are still unable to compete because of a doping-related suspension that will be lifted either next year or in 2023, depending on whether there is an identifiable "change of culture" in the sport.

The brilliant Kazakhstan lifter Bekbolat won again with a six-from-six effort, though this time he did not need to match his previous record-breaking numbers to claim a third world title.

The 17-year-old, already a junior world champion at 102kg and youth world champion at 96kg, as well as a multiple world record holder, made 155-200-355 to take the youth title at 102kg.

That was 31kg lower than his best total this year but was still the highest by anybody in Jeddah, including the super-heavyweights.

The other men’s winners were the Iranian Alireza Abbaspour with 147-181-328 at 81kg, the Armenian Aleksandr Lazaryan with 141-182-323 at 89kg, and Uzbekistan’s Kurbonmurod Nomozov with an impressive 153-189-342 at 96kg - more than Pliev in the super-heavyweights.

Iran also picked up medals in the women’s events for the first time.

Yekta Jamili, at 81kg, finished ahead of a Russian but was beaten into second place by Natia Gadelia, a rare female world champion for Georgia.

Colombia won two women’s events, Dubaney Sinisterra at 59kg and Ingrid Segura at 64kg.

The other female champions were Ezgi Kilic from Turkey with 55-70-125 at 40kg, and Rose Ramos from the Philippines with 67-80-147 at 45kg.

Arguably the best youth lifter in the world, the 17-year-old Bulgarian Karlos Nasar, was training in Belmeken rather than competing in Jeddah as his big target is the senior 81kg world title in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in December.