Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Weightlifting has been around since the start of recorded history, but it first appeared as an official Olympic sport in 1896 as a part of track and field. The sport was left out of the 1900 Games only to return to the Olympic stage in 1904. In 1920, Weightlifting became a regular event at the Olympics and during the 2000 games in Sydney women were allowed to compete for the first time.
Both the men and women's events will be held from August 9th through the 19th and competition will be conducted at the Beihang University Gymnasium. Olympic weightlifting consists of two lifts, the "snatch" and the "clean and jerk" and both men and women must complete each lift in this event. The maximum weights the competitor is able to successfully lift in both events are added together to determine the winner in a weight class. There are also judges to ensure a proper lift.
Definitions of the lifts; The snatch lift is when the barbell is pulled from the platform to above the head in one quick motion. The second event is the clean and jerk, where a lift is done in two steps. First, the bar is pulled up to the shoulders as the lifter goes into a squat and follows that with a burst into an upright position, with the weight resting on the chest. From there, the athlete extends his or her arms and raises the bar above the head until hearing the referee signal it is a good lift.
Keeping track at home is no problem, as the plates are color coded. Red is 25 kg (55 lbs); Blue is 20 kg (44 lbs); Yellow is 15 kg (33 lbs); Green is 10 kg (22 lbs); White is 5 kg (7 lbs); Black is 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs); Chrome is 1.25 kg (2.75 lbs) and Record Disks are 0.50 kg (1.1 lbs) and 0.25 (.55 lbs). The bar in the men's side of the competition weighs 20 kg (about 44 pounds) and the women's bar weighs 15 kg (about 33 pounds). Men compete in eight weight classes, and the women seven. The maximum weights for each of those classes were new in 2000, therefore, each gold medalist automatically established a new Olympic record in their weight class.
Men's weight classes are as follows: Up to 56 kg; 56-62 kg; 62-69 kg; 69-77 kg; 77-85 kg; 85-94 kg; 94-105 kg and over 105 kg.
Women's weight classes are up to 48 kg; 48-53 kg; 53-58 kg; 58-63 kg; 63-69 kg; 69-75 kg and over 75 kg.
Carissa Gump and Natalie Woolfolk are set to make history, as they will become the first women American lifters to participate in the 63 kg division at the Olympics. Gump won the 2005 and 2007 Collegiate National Championships, while Woolfolk won the U.S. National Championships three consecutive years (2005-07) and earned USA Weightlifting's Lifter of the Year award in 2006 and 2007. Woolfolk holds all the American records in the 63 kg weight class.
The comeback story of Melanie Roach will surely be mentioned at this year's Olympics, as she is set to participate in the 53 kg division. Roach was one of the premier women lifters in the mid to late 90's and in 1998 she exceeded the world standard in the clean and jerk at the US National Championships. She was the top ranked American weightlifter after that performance and she was on her way to a 2000 Olympic debut. Unfortunately, Roach suffered a serious back injury weeks before the Olympic Trials and did not participate in the Sydney games. After putting her career on hold to start a family, Roach decided in 2005 to make a comeback in the sport she had once dominated. Following a year of training, she reclaimed her spot on the U.S. national team and amazingly won the bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Championships in Brazil. She appears primed for a big showing in Beijing.
Last, but certainly not least for the women's team is Cheryl Haworth, who is widely considered the strongest women in the United States. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Haworth set five American records and captured the bronze medal in the super-heavyweight (75 + kg) division. While still recovering from an elbow injury, she finished a disappointing sixth at the Athens Games in 2004, but she is poised for a rebound in now her third Olympics.
The men's team is highlighted by Chad Vaughn, who earned the third and final spot on the U.S. Olympic weightlifting team in 2004. He placed 19th at the 77 kg division in Athens, but now more experienced, look for Vaughn to finish much higher this time around. Joining Vaughn will be Casey Burgener and Kendrick Farris. Burgener will compete at the over 105 kg division, while Farris will participate in the 85 kg group. Farris was the top-rated qualifier for the men, while Burgener earned the final spot with a clean and jerk of 493 pounds on his next-to-last attempt.
China is expected to make some noise in this competition, as the host nation dominated the World Championships in 2006, winning 11 medals in 15 events. Zhang Guozheng is one of the most decorated lifters for the Chinese, having placed fourth at the Sydney games and first at Athens in the 69 kg division.
Hossein Rezazadeh of Iran is the two-time reigning champ in the Olympic weightlifting super heavyweight division (105+ kg/231+ lbs.) and he is trying to become just the fourth competitor in the sport's history to win three career Olympic gold medals.
Halil Mutlu of Turkey takes things a step further, as the "Little Dynamo" has a chance to become the first weightlifter to win four Olympic gold medals. The 4-foot-11 Mutlu will try to duplicate his results from the Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Games in the 56kg/123lbs division.
The women's field includes the likes of Wang Mingjuan, who came away with the silver medal for South Korea in the over 75 kg division in Athens. Mingjuan also won the gold medal in Sydney, becoming the first woman to lift 300 kg (snatch and clean and jerk total) in a competition. The Chinese also figure to play a big part in the women's field, as do the Americans.
07/17 13:17:54 ET