American Olivia Reeves was the star individual performer during the weightlifting competition at Santiago 2023 ©PAWF

Colombia topped the weightlifting medals table at the Pan American Games at Santiago in Chile, where the star individual performer was the 20-year-old American Olivia Reeves.

Reeves set two junior world records at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Saudi Arabia in September and followed up in Chile with a sweep of continental junior records at a different weight.

The world records, which helped Reeves to a World Championship bronze medal, came at 71 kilograms while in Santiago she went up to 81kg and made all six lifts for a career-best 114-144-258.

It was all the more remarkable given that Reeves was only 1.02kg heavier than last time, weighing in far lighter than her rivals on 71.95kg.

Having already won gold, Reeves opted for a final attempt at 144kg, a weight she had never tried in training or competition.

After making it, she said: "It feels pretty great. That’s an all-around best day of my career right there.

"I just like breaking my personal records. That is the most fun really - me against me."

Mary Theisen Lappen also won gold for the US, continuing her good progress in the super-heavyweights with 120-157-277 to edge out the Ecuadorian Lisseth Ayovi in a tense finish.

Theisen Lappen had been denied by a "no-lift" decision when going for clean and jerk gold in the World Championships but this time the jury came to her rescue.

Colombian Rafael Cerro is unable to hold back the tears after making his sixth lift for victory ©PAWF
Colombian Rafael Cerro is unable to hold back the tears after making his sixth lift for victory ©PAWF

Her 157kg final attempt was initially ruled "no lift" by the judges, only for the jury to overturn the decision.

"I felt like the judging was a little bit strict so I was surprised that I got it. I was happy but I was surprised," Theisen Lappen said.

Gold medals for Yenny Alvarez in the women’s 59kg, Jhonatan Rivas at 102kg and a tearful Rafael Cerro in the men’s super heavyweights made Colombia the most successful team for a third time this year.

Colombia’s women finished top of the team classification at the IWF World Championships at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia in September, and Colombia had also outperformed all other teams at the Central American and Caribbean Games in June.

Those efforts, and top place in the Pan American Games medals table earned a letter of commendation from the nation’s Sports Ministry, which labelled Colombia as "the reference federation of America" in weightlifting.

Alvarez was 2kg ahead of the Olympic 64kg champion Maude Charron, from Canada, in a close finish. Alvarez totalled 228kg while Charron, who made all six lifts, was on 226kg.

Rivas was far enough ahead to decline his final attempts in snatch and clean and jerk, finishing 176-206-382.

Cerro was flat out on the platform in despair after failing with a 225kg penultimate attempt, but came out to make his final lift at the same weight to win on 185-225-410 ahead of Keiser Witte from the United States.

PAWF President Jose Quinones is flanked by IWF President Mohammed Jalood and first vice-president Ursula Papandrea ©PAWF
PAWF President Jose Quinones is flanked by IWF President Mohammed Jalood and first vice-president Ursula Papandrea ©PAWF

Colombia also had two impressive performers in second place, Luis Javier Mosquera and Yeison Lopez Lopez, both of whom were beaten by Venezuelans.

Julio Mayora made all six lifts in his 154-188-342 to finish ahead of Mosquera, who was competing for only the second time since a 15-month injury lay-off with hand, adductor and shoulder problems.

Mosquera’s three-from-six 153-180-333 was an improvement of 8kg on his World Championships total in Riyadh, where he lifted in the B group.

Lopez Lopez set a Pan American snatch record of 177kg in the 89kg contest but failed with his final clean and jerk attempt at 209kg and was beaten by Keydomar Vallenilla, who made 172-211-383.

Arley Calderon from Cuba was a clear winner of the men’s 61kg on 125-154-279, declining his last two attempts.

The women’s 49kg winner was Dahiana Ortiz from Dominican Republic, whose team-mate Beatriz Piron was back in third place.

Angie Palacios from Ecuador declined her final attempt having already won at 71kg on 118-135-253.

Weightlifting was honoured when Italo Barattini, an IWF international technical official from Chile, was selected to take the oath for technical officials in all sports at the Pan American Games Opening Ceremony.