Karem Ben Hnia of Tunisia won his eighth continental title in the 73kg class ©ITG

Weightlifters from Egypt, Tunisia and Nigeria made progress in the rankings for Paris 2024 with good performances in two Olympic weight categories at the African Championships here today.

Until two days ago the only African nation with athletes ranked in the top 10 was Egypt, which had Sara Samir at 81 kilograms, and the women’s and men’s superheavyweights Halima Abelazim Sedky and Abdelrahman Mohamed El-Sayed.

Rafiatu Lawal went joint 10th for Nigeria at 59kg on Monday, and while her her team-mates Joy Eze and Joseph Umoafia did not make it that far, they moved up impressively in the women’s 71kg and men’s 73kg today.

Karem Ben Hnia won his eighth continental title in the 73kg class and if he had made more than two good lifts, the popular Tunisian might have gone straight into the top 10.

He is slightly lower than that after he was timed out on one attempt at an African record clean and jerk and failed with the next one too, finishing 146-180-326.

One record he did set was for the most photos here when he was asked to pose with many friends and fans.

After smiling through dozens of photos Ben Hnia said: "For the past month I have been training seriously only on my upper body because of pain in my left leg.

"I know my body, I know what I can do. 

"Before that I was training well enough to make 340.

"I will be fine for Cuba (the next qualifier) next month and I promise you when I lift there I will be in the top 10 in the world."

Joy Eze of Nigeria, left, impressed in the women's 71 class ©ITG
Joy Eze of Nigeria, left, impressed in the women's 71 class ©ITG

Second-placed Samir Fardjallah from Algeria moved up a few places in the rankings with 141-174-315 and 20-year-old bronze medallist Umoafia is around 30th after his first 300-plus total on 142-170-312.

The top two in the men’s 73kg Paris rankings, Rahmat Erwin and Rizki Junyansyah from Indonesia, both won gold at the weekend in the Southeast Asian Games.

Junyansyah totalled 347kg, the same number he made at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Colombia in December, to win in Cambodia.

Erwin, the world champion, went up to 81kg and totalled 359kg. Both men skipped the Asian Championships to win gold in Cambodia and said they would return to Paris qualifying in Cuba next month.

In the women’s 71kg, there were no Africans higher than 86th in the list until Neama Said from Egypt and teenager Eze finished well clear of their rivals with totals of 229kg and 227kg. 

Both will now be ranked just outside the top 10.

Said, 20, was inspired by Sara Samir to take up weightlifting and is the only Egyptian woman to have matched her world title successes since she first competed internationally in 2018, when she took a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games and won continental youth and junior titles.

"Neama is from Al-Mahsama, a village near the Suez Canal that’s close to where Sara Samir is from," said Mahmoud Mahgoub, the Weightlifting Federation of Africa (WFA) first vice-president who twice lifted at the Olympic Games for Egypt.

Neama Said from Egypt, left, finished well to be ranked just outside the top 10 in the Paris 2024 rankings ©ITG
Neama Said from Egypt, left, finished well to be ranked just outside the top 10 in the Paris 2024 rankings ©ITG

"When Sara won her bronze medal at the Rio Olympics (the first by a woman from the Arab world) suddenly all the parents in that region wanted their daughters to be like her and we had a lot of new weightlifters.

"Neama is the only one from Egypt besides Sara who has won world titles as a youth, junior and senior.

"She is one of our best and still very young."

If Said had not failed with her final attempt, she would have gone straight into the Paris top 10. 

She made 102-126-229 and Eze finished 102-125-227, both from four good lifts.

Ketty Lent from Mauritius was third on 89-108-197.

Nigeria is struggling for funding and the team of five here travelled at the personal expense of National Federation President Ibrahim Abdul, a successful businessman.

"Weightlifting is not a big sport in Nigeria and we get very little support," said Ibrahim.

"We have a strong team, we have plenty of time to improve, and I hope our results will help us to find some funding."

In the men’s 81kg, Ameur Messaoudi from Algeria made a career-best 145-170-315 for victory ahead of the Tunisians Hamza Ben Amor on 137-168-305 and Slim Bchini on 138-162-300.

There was a delay of several minutes because of a dispute over a wrongly entered first attempt, which appeared to affect Bchini when he finally came out late to lift and failed.

Two minutes later Bchini celebrated long and loud after making his final attempt, as did Ben Amor, but both men were some way behind when Messaoudi made 170kg at the first try after everyone else had finished.