Weightlifting: The Road To London 2012
Weightlifting, to me, is one of the most incredible things you can possibly witness. Anybody who lifts bars that are—in many cases—many times their body weight, is just impressive.
The mental and physical strength required of a weightlifter is immense, and I think we can all appreciate the sheer beauty of the sport. There’s something magical about watching someone perform “improbable” feats of strength.
If you’re a fan of the “World’s Strongest Man” competition, then you should come on down and enjoy weightlifting as well. These guys do the same thing—without planes strapped to their backs.
How do these people get to the Olympics—the only time we get to see them on TV? The “yellow brick road” is starting to take shape with the Pan-American Championships, May 25–31.
There have already been other qualifiers for the 2010 World Championships, and we can expect many of the “stars” from those events to compete for spots in the 2012 Olympics during the 2011 World Championships.
There are no “guaranteed” spots at the Olympics. Unlike some other sports, no one just “gets in” because their country has a certain number of guaranteed slots—all spots must be earned.
Let’s get in a “groove.” We’ll be talking about what it is, where it came from, and what to expect as we follow “The Road to London 2012.”
Weightlifting was introduced at the first Modern Olympics in 1896, and has been a permanent fixture since 1932.
There are two “Olympic Style” lifts for competitions—the “snatch” and the “clean and jerk.” We’ve all seen them, but we might not be able to identify them at a glance.
In short, the “snatch” is a single motion. Imagine snatching up your kid—or little niece or nephew—in one single motion. You bend your knees, lift the weight above your head and lock your arms.
The “clean and jerk” happens in two motions—the first being a “snatch” to your shoulders, followed by a jerk above your head.
Up until 1972, a third lift was also used in the Olympics—the “clean and press.” This lift was eliminated from competition due to difficulties in judging the proper technique. Some athletes were leaning back during the lift, which allowed them to raise more weight overhead.
Because of its rich history, weightlifting has almost an “honor” system. The lifter who attempts the lowest weight goes first and so on. There’s no wrangling about who gets to go next. No diva tantrums about preparations.
Each lifter has to perform both standard lifts—the snatch and the clean and jerk—and awards are presented for each “lift.” This gives lifters the incentive to be versatile, but also allows lifters to specialize in certain areas.
Weightlifters are spread out into weight classes as well, which allows many more people a shot at glory. Plus, it means we get to see more weightlifting!
Men compete at 56 kg (123 lb), 62 kg (137 lb), 69 kg (152 lb), 77 kg (170 lb), 85 kg (187 lb), 94 kg (207 lb), 105 kg (231 lb), and over 105 kg.
Women compete at 48 kg (106 lb), 53 kg (117 lb), 58 kg (128 lb), 63 kg (139 lb), 69 kg (152 lb), 75 kg (165 lb), and over 75 kg.
In the end, everyone wins. Big people can show off their strength and little folks can remind us that, “big things can come in small packages.”
This is where we get our extremes: tiny Turks, gigantic Russians and everything in between.
The Incredible Might of a Lifter
This is where the competition gets hairy. Yes, these people are strong, but they aren’t in control of the action.
You don’t have the final “say” in what constitutes a successful lift. There are no moral victories in weightlifting.
There’s a judge standing right there and only they can give you the “green light.” You’ve only succeeded if the judge says so.
Plus, the crap part of that is you only get one shot. If you begin to make the lift and can’t finish it then you’re done.
The competitors get to choose the weight they want to lift. However, they have to keep outdoing each other until one person is left standing.
This means that 1, 2 or 4 years of hard work can come down to squatting and lifting—one time.
However, it also means that we get a chance to see lifters shoot for World Records and exceed our—and their own—expectations. It’s the perfect venue for inspirational tales of dedication and persistence.
If that doesn’t get your blood flowing—I don’t know what will.
We’re Two Years Away, But…
The Pan-American Championships will be at the end of May. Since this is the final qualifying event for the Pan-American Games, there’s a lot on the line.
The World Championships will be in September with multiple events in between. This gives many competitors a chance to stay fresh and provides an opportunity for them to distinguish themselves from the crowd.
Russians and Turks tend to dominate the weightlifting world—you remember the short Turkish dudes lifting 3 to 4 times their body weight, right? But, folks from the Western Hemisphere also compete in these events. In fact, USA Weightlifting is sending its entire team to the Pan-American Championships.
Americans dominated the sport in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, but were overtaken by the Turks and Russians ever since.
Now there’s another player on the court.
African Weightlifters were recently visited by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to offer extra aid, and were given more opportunities to compete.
The 1st Youth Olympic Games will be held in Singapore this August. Because of new African qualifiers, we will likely see more Africans competing at the World Championships and in the 2012 Olympics.
Given that the competition is now coming from “all sides” the Americans need to step up their game.
Those of us who appreciate the sport can rest easy knowing that the IWF has given us more to see in 2012. But what is there to see?
How Do They Get There?
The Oceania Senior (Olympic) Qualifier was held in Fiji—in April. How did these folks even get off the beach to compete?
In this event alone, 102 were there to complete, and this is only one of many regional qualifiers.
The Youth Olympic European Qualifier starts this weekend and the Junior World Championships are in June. With the sport in constant motion there’s always room for a new star to emerge.
We’ll be following the action and giving you updates as youth lifters head for Singapore in August and senior lifters ready for the World Championships in September.
As the 2010 World Championships shape up, we’ll get to know the athletes and maybe even get a chance to learn some of their secrets. What a great resource a competitive lifter would be!
Each step along the way you can check in to see how the world of competitive weightlifting shapes up. Then you can look around and learn how amazing athletes get in shape.
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