From the beginning of man’s existence, strength and power have always been respected, thus these abilities have been put to the test throughout man’s history. Measuring strength by lifting heavy objects can be dated back to the beginning of civilization. Weightlifting was very popular in Ancient Greece, where heavy rocks were lifted by competitors to find the strongest man. Later the dumbbell was invented by the Greeks to be used in competitions. The word dumbbell originates from the technique of removing the clappers from bells, thus making them soundless during a lift. In 1896 at the very first Olympic games in Athens, weight lifting was part of the programme, alongside cycling, swimming, fencing, gymnastics, wrestling, shooting and athletics.
The International Weightlifting Federation was set up in 1920 with fourteen members. This association would regulate and inspect weightlifting competitions and now boast more than one hundred and sixty members.
In the early 1900s the sport was very much dominated by the European countries Germany, France and Austria. From the 1950s through to the early 80s the Soviet Union reined champion along with Bulgaria. Since that time Greece, China and Turkey have taken the lead. China and other Asian countries dominate the Women’s competition and Greece takes the lead for the men.
Women were entered into the Olympic games for the first time in 2000. Although women were now allowed to enter, Olympic rules stated that only two hundred and fifty competitors could represent the sport, the same number as when only men competed. To compensate for this, it was decided that there would be fewer bodyweight classes.
To make competitions fair, weightlifters will lift only in their own bodyweight class. Until 2000 ten bodyweight classes existed for men, ranging from lighter than fifty-two kg to over one hundred and ten kg. When women entered the competition this was reduced to eight weight categories for men and seven for women.
Originally there were many different lifting styles and methods including one handed lifting. In 1973 these were modified and regulated and reduced to two official lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. The snatch is an extremely fast movement. The weightlifter lifts the bar from the floor to over their head in one flowing unbroken movement. More than two and a half times the weightlifters bodyweight has been lifted in this move by the best in the sport.
The clean and jerk lift consists of two movements. During the clean the weightlifter lifts the bar from the floor to their shoulders in a fluid movement. In the next move, the jerk, the bar is lifted over their head using strength from arms and legs. More than three times the lifters bodyweight has been recorded in this lift.
Weightlifting competitions have taken place in one form or another since the beginning of civilisation. Man has always measured strength by the ability to lift different weights, from heavy rocks to modern day barbells.
Weightlifting has been accepted as a serious sport from very early on and was present in the very first Olympic games in 1896 in Athens. The sport has gone from strength to strength enjoying times of enormous popularity along with low periods of distaste and distrust. The sport now has a new clean image and is trying successfully to put the days of steroids and drug enhancement behind it. In 1993 in an attempt to close the door on drug use in the sport, records were frozen and competitions were given a new beginning.
In a modern weightlifting competition there are a number of rules. These govern what weights can be lifted, how they are to be lifted and how much time a weightlifter has to perform the lift.
The men’s bar is twenty kg and the women’s is 15 kg. Rubber coated, weighted disks are attached to the ends of the barbell to create the correct weight to be lifted. The weightlifter stands on a wooden raised platform, which is coated in a non-slip material to perform the lift.
A panel of three referees judges each competition. They use a system of lights to indicate the validity of the lift. A red light indicates that the lift was incorrect or invalid; a white light indicates a correct lift. In turn a jury also exists which have the duty to watch over the three referees. If there is a serious issue with a referee the jury can choose to replace them. The decision is made unanimously or by majority. So two or three red lights would mean the lift was invalid and two or three white lights would show a correct lift. When this decision is final the weightlifter is given a visual and audible indication to lower the weight. The lifter is allowed to make a maximum of three attempts per lift.
An electronic scoreboard will be present in the competition room. This tells the spectators all the information about the current lifter. Their weight category, their name and country they represent. This will also show technical details such as the weight being lifted, how many attempts have been made at the lift and time remaining. The lifter must make their lift within the time permitted for each lift.
Competitive weightlifters will wear specific weight lifting clothing for competitions. These will not cover areas such as the knees or elbows that need to be clearly visible for the referees to make sure the lifts are made correctly.