Retirement isn’t just for the 60+ crowd, especially when you’re a multiple-time weightlifting champion. This was surely the case for 22-year-old Rebeka Koha of Latvia who decided to retire recently. She’s a two-time Junior and European champion who competed in the 58kg division before moving to the 59kg category in 2018 due to changes by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).
Koha also happens to be a world record holder and also competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Her retirement was announced by Public Broadcasting of Latvia via the Latvian Olympic Committee (LOK) on August 5.
Koha’s coach Viktors Ščerbatihs was also very supportive of the decision and knew that she had been suffering from knee issues. Her other coach Eduards Andruškevičs explained that it could have been due to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics being postponed and not likely due to her recent conversion to the Islamic faith at the end of July.
Chair of Latvian Olympic Association (LOV) Einars Fogelis Tweeted the following about the decision. It’s originally in Latvian but here’s what it reads translated in quotes…
“E.Fogelis, Head of LOV: “Today, during the videoconference, R.Koch announced that she is concluding her career as an athlete. Respecting Rebecca’s choice and saying thank you for your work, we agreed that by 9/1, we will receive a written application for withdrawal from the LOV and suspension of funding.”
LOV vadītājs E.Fogelis: “Šodien videokonferences laikā R.Koha paziņoja, ka noslēdz sportistes karjeru. Respektējot Rebekas izvēli un sakot paldies par ieguldīto darbu, vienojāmies, ka līdz 1.09. saņemsim rakstisku iesniegumu par izstāšanos no LOV un finansējuma apturēšanu”. pic.twitter.com/IMaMWNGRiS
— LOK (@Olimpiade_lv) August 5, 2020
Rebeka Koha earned a bronze medal at the 2014 Youth Olympics competing in the 48kg class. She then took bronze at the 2016 European Championships (total) and came in 4th at the Rio Olympics that same year both in the 53kg class.
She won silver in the snatch and clean & jerk, in addition to a gold medal in the total at the 2017 Junior World Weightlifting Championships. At the 2017 European Championships, Koha won a gold medal in the snatch, and silver medals in the clean & jerk and total, and earned bronze in the snatch and total at the World Championships (snatch and total) all in the same year (58kg).
Then in 2018, she was the Junior and European Championships champion (58kg), finished 3rd at the World Weightlifting Championships (snatch and total of which she also set junior world records in the snatch, clean & jerk, and total) and repeated her victory in 2019 at the European Championships (59kg).
After the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Koha was named Latvian Rising Star of the Year. She was also named to Forbes Latvia 30 Under 30 list at age 21.
22-years-old may be a bit young to retire in most cases. However, weightlifting can place a lot of stress on the body and it’s definitely not a long-term option for everyone. Rebeka Koha had a very respectable career and there’s no shame in leaving to pursue other endeavors.