Iran's Sohrab Moradi, who won Olympic gold at Rio 2016 before an injury-hit career, is returning with the goal of qualifying for Paris 2024 ©Getty Images

Sohrab Moradi, the Iranian world record holder who won Olympic gold at Rio 2016 before his career was blighted by serious injuries, is returning to action aged 33 and aiming to qualify for Paris 2024.

Moradi was never fit enough to qualify for Tokyo and last made a total in competition two years ago.

He will line up in the 102 kilograms category at the Asian Championships in Jinju, South Korea next month - a qualifier for Paris 2024 - alongside two other Olympic gold medallists and a world champion.

If they all lift it would arguably be the most intriguing contest in world weightlifting so far this year.

Ruslan Nurudinov from Uzbekistan, who also won gold in Rio, moves down from 109kg while the Tokyo 2020 96kg champion Meso Hassona from Qatar moves up, as does Bahrain’s 96kg world champion Lesman Paredes.

Paredes, Meso and Nurudinov respectively won gold at 96kg, 102kg and 109kg in the first Paris qualifying event, the 2022 International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Bogotá, Colombia in December.

Besides these four there are also two strong challengers from Kazakhstan and one from Kyrgyzstan, Artyom Antropov, Nurgissa Adiletuly and Bekdoolot Rasulbekov.

Moradi had spinal surgery after a serious back injury in February 2019 and then dislocated his shoulder in training five months later while trying to prepare for Tokyo qualifying.

In the 2021 Asian Championships he totalled 384kg, which is 32kg below his world-record best total set in 2018, and he bombed out a month later in Cali, Colombia at an open qualifying competition.

Ruslan Nurudinov could line up alongside Moradi at the Asian Championships, after dropping down to the 102 kilograms category ©Getty Images
Ruslan Nurudinov could line up alongside Moradi at the Asian Championships, after dropping down to the 102 kilograms category ©Getty Images

He told Iranian media: "According to the latest MRI scan of my shoulder, there is no problem and the doctor allowed me to train with heavier weights.

"I hope I can get the necessary preparation to win a medal in the Asian Championship.

"I will try to record the best records in the national team."

Eleven Olympic champions and 13 world champions are from Asia, and the only absentees in Jinju will be Rahmat Erwin from Indonesia, who like his team-mate Rizki Juniansyah sits out this event, and Lu Xiaojun from China, who is provisionally suspended after testing positive for erythropoietin.

Erwin and Juniansyah finished first and second at 73kg in Bogotá, where the Olympic champion Shi Zhiyong weighed in without lifting.

During Paris qualifying only the best single total from a minimum of five participations counts in the rankings, so athletes who do not feel 100 per cent on the day may withdraw after weighing in.

They must be present to comply with anti-doping regulations.

Based on the final entries of just under 300 athletes, other highlights in Jinju will be the women’s 49kg, 59kg and 81kg, and the men’s 61kg and 89kg.

Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines is set to move up to 59 kilograms in Junju ©Getty Images
Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines is set to move up to 59 kilograms in Junju ©Getty Images

Thailand’s 45kg world champion Thanyathon Sukcharoen moves up to compete against China’s Olympic and world champions Hou Zhihui and Jian Huihua at 49kg.

The Olympic and world 55kg champion Hidilyn Diaz moves up to 59kg and will compete against her Philippines team-mate Elreen Ando.

Also in a formidable field are the Olympic 59kg winner Kuo Hsing-Chun from Chinese Taipei, China’s Luo Shifang and 64kg world champion Pei Xinyi, and the talented Thailand teenager Thanaporn Saetia, who won the 64kg youth world title last month on her first appearance in international weightlifting.

At 81kg, Olympic and world champions from China go head-to-head - Wang Zhouyou, who won at 87kg in Tokyo, and Liang Xiaomei, who beat Wang at this weight in Colombia.

Two Chinese Olympic champions face off in the men’s 61kg, the Tokyo winner at this weight Li Fabin and 67kg gold medallist Chen Lijun.

Tian Tao, the clean and jerk world record holder at 96kg, drops down to 89kg and competes against his China team-mate Li Dayin, the 81kg world champion who moves up.

The competition in Jinju runs from May 5 to 13.