Weightlifting proved a hit with fans as a demonstration sport during the ongoing European Youth Olympic Festival in Maribor ©EWF

Urban weightlifting has made its mark again, this time at the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Maribor, Slovenia.

Large crowds watched the action in Maribor’s historic central square, Glavni Trg, where weightlifting was a demonstration event alongside the 11 official sports on the Festival programme.

Its success will have enhanced the prospect of weightlifting featuring at the next European Games in 2027, which may take place in neighbouring Croatia, although the host nation is yet to be confirmed.

The mixed-gender team and individual competition, promoted by the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF), was also another step towards the creation of a formalised structure for innovative "parallel" events on the sport’s calendar.

"We need to make weightlifting more attractive to a wider audience and these events help to do that," said EWF President Antonio Conflitti.

"We had very good feedback not just from the public, but from National Olympic Committees, the Local Organising Committee and even from the mascot in Maribor, Foksi the Fox, who spent a lot of time at the weightlifting and went on to the platform to have a go himself.

"People would say they could just stop by and watch for five minutes, but they ended up staying for one and a half hours and they really enjoyed it.

Participants in the weightlifting demonstration event as part of EYOF 2023 helped to
Participants in the weightlifting demonstration event as part of EYOF 2023 helped to "write a new chapter of weightlifting history" according to EWF President Antonio Conflitti ©EWF

"We told the athletes, ‘we are writing a new chapter of weightlifting history and you are the protagonists - enjoy the moment'.

"They did that, and some of them said they were so relaxed in the environment they had better results than at the European Youth Championships in Moldova two weeks ago.

"The setting and the ambience were very good. The public who watched did not just support the local athletes, they supported everybody."

The quickfire competition featured mixed team and individual contests for athletes from seven nations - Slovenia, Italy, Serbia, Croatia, Malta, Hungary and Slovakia.

Teams of one male and one female were drawn before the start from the entire field, there were two attempts rather than three in snatch and clean and jerk, and there were no bodyweight categories, just an all-weights scoring system based on Sinclair points.

Attila Adamfi, who like Conflitti sits on the Steering Committee that is overseeing the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Strategic Plan, its "roadmap for the future", travelled with the Hungary team and said: "All these events provide great experience that we can evaluate.

EYOF 2023 mascot Foksi the Fox has a go on the weightlifting platform ©EWF
EYOF 2023 mascot Foksi the Fox has a go on the weightlifting platform ©EWF

"Since the IWF organised the first international street weightlifting event in Lausanne, the Olympic capital, last year more and more such events have been held."

Besides the EYOF event in Maribor there was one in Cuba in May, a second edition of the Lausanne competition last month, and there will be more in Jamaica in August and the first EWF Cup in Ancient Olympia in October or November.

"As part of our strategic objective to introduce new, innovative disciplines, a consolidated urban competition format will be elaborated soon, with the active participation of the Athletes Commission," Adamfi said.

The team winners in Maribor were Gabriela Frlan from Croatia and Gabor Bunasz from Hungary on 486 points.

The Slovenian Janez Paternoster was top male lifter on 313 Sinclair points, while the top female was Chiara Reljac from Croatia.

Malta’s Kim Camilleri was second, rounding off a busy few weeks in which she also won medals at the European Youth Championships in Moldova and the Commonwealth Championships in India.