Twelve-year-old Emily Ibanez Guerrero is a rising star in weightlifting ©Ciro Ibanez

The debut of a phenomenally talented 12-year-old girl from Canada is expected to be one of the highlights of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Youth Championships, starting tomorrow in Durres, Albania.

Emily Ibanez Guerrero is so widely talked about within the sport that she already has 38,000 Instagram followers, China's multiple world and Olympic champion Lu Xiaojun among them.

She has lifted in provincial and national youth championships, posting a best total of 176 kilograms, but was too young for international competition before this year.

To be eligible for youth competitions an athlete must be aged 13 to 17 at any point during the year of competition - which Guerrero will be by four days, as her birthday falls on December 27.

She will be aged 12 years 86 days when she lifts on Monday (March 27) night, the youngest of 270 athletes competing here, more than half of them born in 2006.

Her parents are both weightlifters, Abigail Guerrero and Ciro Ibanez, and have nurtured the progress of their son Brayan as well as Emily, who is already capable of lifting 90-plus kilos in clean and jerk.

"She is training well, very happy, her body weight is good," said her father.

Brayan became Canada's first medallist at the World Youths last year when he finished third in the snatch and total at 73kg.

He could have been a gold medal contender at 89kg but lifts at 81kg, an Olympic weight category "because he says he wants to compete against the best", said Ciro Ibanez.

Colombia's senior team may have got off to a bad start in 2023 with their withdrawal from the Pan American Championships, but their top teenagers are ready to make their mark here.

Their main hope is 16-year-old Ingrid Segura, who is going for a third straight world title in the 64kg category on Wednesday (March 29).

The 2022 champion at 40kg, Lawren Estrada, lifts at 45kg on Sunday (March 26).

Emily Ibanez Guerrero with her father Ciro Ibanez and brother Brayan ©Ciro Ibanez
Emily Ibanez Guerrero with her father Ciro Ibanez and brother Brayan ©Ciro Ibanez 

Athletes from Kazakhstan, whose team topped the medals table ahead of Colombia at the 2022 event in León in Mexico, have the highest entry totals in four of the male weight categories in Durres, 67kg, 73kg, 89kg and 102kg.

Their 73kg gold medal contender Yerasyl Saulebekov, who won last year at 67kg, has posted an entry total of 310kg.

That is 1kg more than the youth world record set last year by his team-mate Yedige Yemberdi, who is too old to compete here at the Ramazan Njala Sport Complex.

Based on entry totals and past performance, Turkey, The Philippines, Egypt and Thailand will also have strong medal chances.

Asian youth champion Angeline Colonia is The Philippines' top hope.

The youngest sister of Rio 2016 Olympian Nestor Colonia lifts at 45kg, the weight at which she set a continental record of 62kg in the snatch last year. 

Jessica Palacios Dajome, from Ecuador, is also from an illustrious weightlifting family.

The 17-year-old is the younger sister of Neisi Palacios Dajome, who won Olympic gold in Tokyo, and the IWF World Championships medallist Angie Palacios.

Her brother German, aged 20, is due to compete at the Pan American Junior Championships in Colombia in May.

Another famous name appears in Italy's team. 

Claudio Scarantino, 16, who lifts at 61kg, is the younger brother of the 11-times European champion Mirco Scarantino, a double Olympian.

Their father Giovanni competed at the Olympic Games in 1988, 1992 and 1996.

Four of the eight days of competition, ending on April 1, feature six sessions that will stretch over 14 hours or more.