Lasha “Limitless” Talakhadze Breaks His Own Weightlifting World Record… Again
Lasha Talakhadze breaks the world record and takes gold in weightlifting at 473kg for the first time in 2016. Image: Salty View/Shutterstock
In Georgia, everyone knows who Lasha Talakhadze is. If asked what he does, the response is simple: he’s the strongest man in the world. The only real question is, does he have limits? He’s only 28 years old, yet he’s already triumphed at 12 top championships gaining five world, five European and two Olympic titles: previously, no Georgian had ever taken more than a single Olympic gold. His status as weightlifting’s top star was proved again on Friday. After his record-breaking finish to the Tashkent 2021 Championship, even his opponents approached Talakhaze for selfies.
In reality, he is only competing with himself. In the snatch, Talakhadze lifted 225kg, breaking his own 223 kg world record set at the Tokyo Olympic Games. His nearest competitor – Armenia’s Varazdat Lalayan – managed just 211 kg. In clean & jerk, Talakhadze again broke his own record (265 kg), lifting 267kg. The contest’s climax had the whole of Georgia holding their breath as the key final lift briefly went to jury arbitration. However, after a short discussion, it was deemed to be clean, bringing Lasha’s total lift to 492kg - a new cumulative world record. Lalayan’s cumulative score was 457kg, while fellow Armenian Gor Minasyan totalled 448 kg to take bronze. So, the podium was taken entirely by South Caucasian neighbours - Talakhadze in the middle, Lalayan and Minasyan on either side.
The victory caps a hugely successful 2021 for Lasha. With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics delayed one year, it was a unique opportunity to win all three major events in a single year - as European, Olympic and World Champion. The Olympics had been delayed a year due to Covid, so this feat is never likely to be equalled.
Despite his physical strength, Talakhadze claims to be a very shy person who prefers quiet and hard work to the media spotlight. Shy, perhaps, but also pretty relaxed under pressure, it would seem. In a comical TV highlight filmed at the Tokyo Olympics, the Georgian team doctor is being interviewed, explaining how nervous the competitors are… As he does so, the camera cuts to a view of Talakhadze on a bench, apparently sleeping peacefully. The speaker is unable to control his laughter.
Talakhadze comes from the small Georgian city of Sachkhere (pop 6140). Remarkably enough, that’s the same hometown as his coach Georgi Asanidze, who was himself an Olympic Champion at the 2004 games. Unsurprisingly the town is proud of its native sons, organizing public screenings of the weightlifting competitions. The love is clearly reciprocated, with the weightlifter claiming that he never wanted to leave Sachkhere and would have stayed there had he not been obliged to head to the capital to join the national team. He also speaks regularly of his love of his homeland, understanding how much his victories mean to the country. As a devoted Orthodox Christian, he crosses himself and says a prayer before every lift attempt.
In an interview with journalist Ia Antadze, Lasha was asked how he keeps himself motivated when he is already at least one large step ahead of anyone else in the sport. Talakhadze explains that above all, he simply enjoys setting new records and competing with himself. Fans and supporters also play a huge role. Everyone demands a new record from him, and he feels the need to oblige. Also, he stresses that when the time comes, and he realizes that someone else on the national team is better than him, he won’t stand in their way but will be happy to give the floor to the next generation.
Talakhadze’s route to becoming a legend of weightlifting has not been as easy as it might seem. As a youngster, Talakhadze’s father once doubted that Lasha would be strong enough for his chosen sport and pressed him to train instead as a wrestler and footballer, feeling that those sports would give him additional skills. But after two years, his father brought him back to the sport, which has since given him the status of World’s Strongest Man. Since then, he has required utter devotion to training, lifting a total of 20-30 tonnes per day in practice lifts. A more significant mental challenge for him came in 2013 when, having failed a drug test, he was handed a two-year suspension from the sport. In interviews, he says that even today, he cannot understand what happened to cause the positive test result - but the saga changed his life entirely. After this, he moved to a “doping diet” with constant checks by control officers who arrive in Georgia frequently before the tournaments. Talakhadze explains that he is often notified less than 5 minutes before a match, while the Georgian Weightlifting Federation helps ensure that he is updated on any new rules about dietary supplements that could potentially contain restricted drugs.
Talakhadze has a very interesting approach towards the barbell, saying it is not his enemy and he is not competing with it. He told an interviewer: “My whole life, I’ve been lifting iron. It brought me fame and success. How can I consider it as my enemy? After finishing my workouts, I try to cuddle the barbell, and after training, I’ll clean it and the other equipment I’ve been using. It’s kind of paying respect to the things that help me become a champion.”
The main question that has not yet been answered is when Talakhadze will reach his limit. He has promised that one day he will lift a 500kg cumulative total. Indeed there are rumours that he is already lifting it during training sessions. Georgian fans had hoped to see it happen at the Tokyo Olympics or in Tashkent. Not quite… but that just makes it more exciting to see what he can manage at the Paris Olympics. Roll on 2024!