The World Games is an international multi-sports event held every four years, consisting of events not included in the Olympics, yet still recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Equipped Powerlifting has been part of the World Games since it’s inauguration in 1981, and is arguably the biggest opportunity for our sport to demonstrate its competitiveness, entertainment, and interest from the public.

Organized slightly differently from the World Championships, the weight classes are separated into lightweight, middleweight, heavyweight and super-heavyweight divisions, with the winner of each determined by the Wilks coefficient. The lightweight division includes the 47kg and 52kg weight class for women, and the 59kg and 66kg class for men. Middleweight includes the 57kg and 63kg class for women, and 74kg and 83kg for men. Heavyweight includes the 72kg only for women, and the 93kg and 105kg class for men. The super-heavyweight class includes the 84kg and 84kg+ class for women, and the 120kg and 120kg+ class for men.

With the Games kicking off today (Wednesday 24th July), we’re taking a look at the top lifters to look out for in each of the divisions.

Lightweight Women

Wei-Ling Chen

Wei-Ling is not only the #1 nominated woman in the lightweight division, but is a hot contender for the overall best female lifter title across all weight classes and divisions by Wilks score. At the 2013 World Games, the Chinese Taipei lifter placed second in the Lightweight division next to Natalia Salnikova, with a 475kg total and 645 Wilks. Since then, Wei-Ling has won the 47kg division in every Equipped World Championships she’s attended, and set new world record totals in both raw and equipped. Most recently, at the 2016 Open World Championships, she totaled a new 47kg world record of 500kg with a massive 675 Wilks score.

Yukako Fukushima

Japanese lifter Yukako Yukushima has come second to Wei-Ling Chen at almost every event, but won the Open World Championships in 2015 when Wei-Ling opted to compete in the Classic World’s that year (and won). Most recently, Yukako totaled 12.5kg and 15 Wilks points behind Wei-Ling at the 2016 Open World Championships. However, any slip up from Wei-Ling could leave the Japanese lifter to take the lightweight title.

Natalia Salnikova

Natalia has dominated the 52kg weight class as long as we can remember, winning the World Championships every year since 2011, and even winning the best overall female lifter in 2015 with the absence of Wei-Ling Chen and Larysa Soloviova. The Russian lifter has consistently posted Wilks scores in the 660-670 range, and will make for an even more stacked lightweight division.

Lightweight Men

Sergey Fedosienko

Move out of his way. Sergey Fedosienko hasn’t ever lost an international competition to our knowledge, and you can bet he’s not planning to start now. The Russian lifter has dominated the 59kg class with no one anywhere near to him for years. He holds all of the 59kg world records in both raw and equipped (par the raw squat), breaking his own records multiple times. He’s also won every Classic World Championship since its inception, including the majority of overall best male titles. Sergey won the equipped Open World Championships last year with a world record total of 762.5kg and 665.5 Wilks – close to his all-time best Wilks of 669.15 from the World Championships in 2014. Sergey of course won the Lightweight title at the World Games in 2013, and will be confidently looking to defend his title.

Tsung-Ting Hsieh

With Sergey Gladkikh not attending the World Games this year, Tsung-Ting Hsieh is the dominant 66kg lifter, and will likely place second behind Sergey. The Chinese Taipei lifter has consistently improved his total for years now, most recently putting together 785kg with a Wilks of 618.89. His best Wilks to date however is 630.79 from 2006, where he totaled 730kg at 59.15kg bodyweight.

Charles Okpoko

1995-born lifter Charles Okpoko competed for the first time in the open division at the 2016 Open World Championships last year, still as a junior, and momentously placed second in the very competitive 66kg class. He was only beaten by none other than Tsung-Ting Hsieh. After winning the junior division two years running, Charles has a lot of potential in the opens and at the World Games. With his 602.67 Wilks, he is a strong medal contender.

Middleweight Women

Larysa Soloviova

Larysa is the favorite to win the best overall female lifter title, even more so than 47kg Wei-Ling Chen, which she won at the World Games in 2013. The Ukrainian lifter has also won the 63kg division at the World Championships every year since 2011, the majority of which she has also won the best overall female lifter at. Most recently, at the 2016 World Championships, she posted an insane 641kg world record total with a 688.5 Wilks, just slightly behind her 689.07 best – the highest ever female Wilks in IPF history. Make sure you watch her lift, it’s a sight to behold.

Anna Ryzhkova

Russian lifter Anna Ryzhkova is undoubtedly the best 57kg lifter at the World Games with her main rival, Sri Hartati, not attending. Her 535kg total from the 2016 World Championships was enough to earn her a 623 Wilks and second place next to Sri. Anna will be contending for the silver medal against Cicera Tavares.

Cicera Tavares

Cicera has been making consistent progress in the 63kg division in the last few years. After placing fourth at the World Championships in 2015, the Brazilian lifter came second to Larysa in 2016 with a 575kg total and 620 Wilks. After bombing out at the 2016 Classic World Championships in Killeen, Cicera skipped this years’ Classic World’s to prepare for the World Games, where she will try to redeem herself and beat Anna Ryzhkova for the the silver medal in the Middleweight division.

Middleweight Men

Jaroslaw Olech

Polish lifter Jaroslaw Olech is the 74kg equivalent of Sergey Fedosienko in the 59’s – he has won every equipped 74kg World Championship we can remember. Jaroslaw currently holds the 74kg equipped world record squat with 367.5kg, and total with 905kg, as well as all four M1 records. The Polish lifter won the Middleweight division at the 2013 World Games, even beating renowned 83kg lifter Kjell Bakkelund, who recently made a storm in the raw Powerlifting scene at the Classic World’s. With his best Wilks of 657.29, Jaroslaw is by far the favorite to win the Middleweight division.

Rysiyev Volodymyr

With the normally dominant Kjell Bakkelund out of the picture from the World Games, Rysiyev Volodymyr is now the top 83kg lifter and is likely to place second to Jaroslaw. Rysiyev finally won his first 83kg World Championship title since 2011 last year, as Kjell was making his transition to the 74kg class and raw. At the World’s, the Ukrainian lifter posted a 927.5kg total and a 619.94 Wilks, which should be enough to give him the second-place position next to Jaroslaw.

Andriy Naniev

The second 83kg lifter from Ukraine at the World Games, Andriy placed second to Rysiyev at the 2016 World Championships, losing out by only 17kg and 10~ Wilks points, setting a new 83kg bench press world record of 265.5kg (at the time) in the process. He’ll now be looking to beat his fellow Ukrainian lifter for the silver medal in the Middleweight division.

Heavyweight Women

Ana Castellain

Brazilian lifter Ana Castellain has a had a good few years of lifting since she won the Heavyweight division at the World Games in 2013. On the equipped side, Ana came second to fellow 72kg lifter Priscilla Ribic in 2014 and 2015, but finally beat her in 2016 with a 638kg total and 636 Wilks. On the raw side, Ana moved up to the 84kg division in 2016 to win the Classic World Championship title. This year, Ana’s moved back down to 72kg in preparation for the World Games, and came second next to Kimberly Walford at the Classic World’s, setting a new 196kg world record squat in the process.

Priscilla Ribic

Ana’s main rival, Priscilla Ribic is a 1972-born M1 lifter and a veteran in the sport. She’s been extremely dominant in the 72kg class for as long as we can remember, and has been consistently adding to her total, most recently putting together 632.5kg with a 634 Wilks at the 2016 World Championships. Beaten by Ana Castellain with only 5.5kg and 2~ Wilks points between them, it will be a mightily close battle between the Brazilian and the American for the Heavyweight title.

Yenifer Canelon

Not much is known about Venezuelan lifter Yenifer Canelon. After bombing out of the junior World Championships in 2008 and placing second in 2010, Yenifer hasn’t been around the Powerlifting scene until last year at the 2016 World Championships. She competed in the 72kg class, placing seventh with a 533.67 Wilks. Since then, she made miraculous gains in her performance, scoring a Wilks of 611 at what is assumed to be a Venezuelan national competition. If she’s continued that rate of progress, she’ll be a contester for gold next to Ana and Priscilla.

Marte Elverum

Marte has been up and coming in the 72kg division for some time now. Placing third next to Ana and Priscilla at the 2016 World Championships, The Norwegian lifter went on to win the European World Championships for the third time with a 612.5kg total and 597.98 Wilks.

Heavyweight Men

Sergii Bilyi

Ukrainian lifter Sergii Bilyi is at the top of the 93kg class at the moment, winning the World Championships the last two years. Doing so in 2015, he also set a new world record total in the 93kg class with 1022.5kg and a Wilks of 645.2. He entered the World Games in 2013 still as a junior lifter, and ended up placing fourth in the Heavyweight division with a 607.6 Wilks. Having added almost 40 points to his Wilks since then, Sergii is now the favorite to win the Heavyweight division.

Dmitry Inzarkin

Closely following Sergii is fellow 93kg lifter Dmitry Inzarkin, who won the World Championships in 2014, but since has been beaten by Sergii in 2015 and 2016. With his all-time best total of 1017.5kg and Wilks of 642.35, the Russian lifter is sure to make for a close battle.

Dmytro Semenenko

Another top Ukrainian lifter at the World Games is Dmytro Semenenko. Competing in the Heavyweight division, Dmytro is the reigning 105kg World Champion from 2015 and 2016. With his best total of 1035.5kg from 2015, Dmytro is at a very similar level of strength to both Sergii and Dmitry – so he’ll need to either weigh in light or add on some more kilos to his total if he wants to be in with a chance of silver or gold.

Super-Heavyweight Women

Tetyana Melnyk

Ukrainian lifter Tetyana Melnyk placed second in the Middleweight division at the World Games in 2013 next to Larysa Soloviova, however didn’t return to the international Powerlifting scene in 2014 or 2015. She made her comeback in 2016 at the World Championships, where she only ended up placing fourth in the 84kg division, weighing extremely light at 72.15kg with a 594.57 Wilks. Though her 610kg total is pretty good in the 84kg division, competing this light in the Super-Heavyweight division may be enough to give her the edge in the Wilks score to take the overall title.

Liane Blyn

One of USA’s top heavyweight women, 84kg Liane Blyn is a seasoned M1 equipped lifter. She placed fifth in the Super-Heavyweight division at the World Games in 2013 and has since made tremendous gains on her total and Wilks. Back then she totaled 592.5kg with a 542 Wilks, but most recently won the 2016 Open World Championships with a 645kg total and 584 Wilks. Liane is a top contender for the Super-Heavyweight title.

Ielja Strik

Liane’s main rival, Ielja Strik is another seasoned M1 lifter in the 84kg division. Liane and Ielja are always neck and neck when it comes to the World Championships, and it will likely be the case again. On the equipped side, the Dutch lifter came second to Liane in 2015 and 2016 at the World’s, however she won back in 2013. At the World Games four years ago, Ielja came second in the Super-Heavyweight division next to Olena Kozlova (who is not attending this time around), so will be gunning for the top spot.

Bonica Lough

This will be Bonica’s first World Games competition. Last year at the World Championships, Bonica had a staggering performance, setting a new 84kg+ world record total of 725kg with a 572.68 Wilks. Prior to that, Bonica made history in raw Powerlifting, becoming the first woman ever to squat 600lbs (272.5kg) in only knee sleeves at the 2016 Arnold Classic. The American lifter will be neck and neck to the other Super-Heavyweight women if her performance at the 2016 World Championships is anything to go by.

Super-Heavyweight Men

Blaine Sumner

All eyes will be on “The Vanilla Gorilla” as he competes for the first time since his epic performance at the Arnold Classic earlier this year, where he extended his previous world record total to 1272.5kg, alongside an absurd squat world record of 505kg. After winning the World Championships in 2016 for the first time since 2012, this American titan is in good stead to win the Super-Heavyweight division and the best overall male lifter title. His insane performance at the Arnold gave him the highest Wilks score in IPF history: 692.2. If Blaine’s injuries are in check and we’re lucky, we may be able to witness the first 700 Wilks. Make sure you’re watching.

Oleksiy Bychkov

If Blaine has a good day, it will be near impossible for anyone to catch him. But if he doesn’t, Oleksiy Bychkov will be one of the prime contenders to take him on. This Ukrainian lifter has managed to win the last two World Championships in the extremely competitive 120kg class, and currently holds the world record total with 1125kg from last year, with a 649 Wilks.

Nurlan Yeshmakhanov

Kazakh lifter Nurlan Yeshmakhanov is another top 120kg lifter, coming second to Oleksiy at the World Championships last year by 35kg. the 1990-born lifter is still very young for this heavy weight class, and has been making consistent gains in his total year after year. Because of this, Nurlan is a prime contender for silver in the Super-Heavyweight’s next to Oleksiy.

Oleksiy Rokochiy

The second 120kg Ukrainian lifter named Oleksiy in the World Games this year, Oleksiy Rokochiy is also a medal contender in the Super-Heavyweight division. This lifter held the world record total with 1075kg for a good two years before his same-named rival extended it to 1082.5kg in 2015, and extended it again to 1125kg last year. Watch out for these two Oleksiy’s!

Krzyzstof Wierzbicki

Krzyzstof has certainly made a name for himself in the raw scene in recent years. With multiple 93kg Classic World Championship titles under his belt, the 105kg title from this year, and a world record deadlift of 390kg (he’s pulled 400kg unofficially), Krzyzstof turned his attention to raw lifting completely from the first Classic World Championships in 2012. The Polish lifter is finally returning to the equipped scene at the World Games. It’s quite unpredictable as to what he’ll post (heck, he doesn’t even have a Wilks nomination), but if his raw 307.5kg squat and 197.5kg bench press from the Classic World’s are anything to go by, he could be scoring a 630 or higher Wilks score, putting him in with a shot of medaling.

About the author: Ramsay Kirkhy

Ramsay holds a BSc in Psychology and is currently studying for his MSc. He is also a certified Personal Trainer with three years’ experience. Along with his studies, he has a huge passion for Powerlifting, competing in the 74kg division in Great Britain, also writing for the 9for9 Media blog.