Weightlifting dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece, providing an easy way to measure strength and power. Throughout the Middle Ages, strongmen performed at fairs and festivals. In the 1800s, professionals toured with carnivals and vaudeville shows. By the end of the 19th century, weightlifting had become an internationally competitive sport.
The first weightlifting world championships were held in 1891 featuring seven athletes from six countries. Five years later, weightlifting was one of nine sports included at the first modern Olympic Games. There were no weight classes and the competition featured one-handed and two-handed lifts. Weightlifting has been on the program at every Olympic Games since then except three: Paris 1900, London 1908, and Stockholm 1912. Beginning at Amsterdam 1928, each weightlifting event consisted of three lifts: the snatch, the clean and jerk, and the press. The press was eliminated in 1973 because of judging difficulties.
Women first competed at the world championships in 1987. The next year, the International Weightlifting Federation submitted a proposal for women’s events to be included on the Olympic program. It was finally approved in late 1996 and female weightlifters made their Olympic debuts at Sydney 2000. Weightlifting has been on the Pan American Games program since the inaugural edition in 1951.
The 15 weightlifting events are all designated by the upper weight limit of the athletes permitted in each class.
Competitors lift a weight, called the barbell, which consists of a steel bar (weighing 20kg for men, 15kg for women) onto which different coloured weight discs (weighing 0.5kg to 25kg) are loaded. Lifters perform two types of lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk, with three attempts at each. The best snatch and best clean and jerk for each lifter are added together to determine the final results. If two competitors are tied for the same weight lifted, the winner is the lifter with the lighter body weight.
To perform the snatch, the barbell is placed horizontally in front of the lifter’s legs. It is gripped palms downward and pulled in a single movement from the floor to above the head with arms fully extended.
There are two phases in the clean and jerk. To perform the clean, the barbell is placed horizontally in front of the lifter’s legs. Gripped with palms downward, it is pulled in a single movement from the floor to the shoulders. The barbell rests above the chest or on bent arms as the feet move to the same line with legs straight before performing the jerk. In the jerk, the athlete bends the legs and extends them as well as the arms to bring the barbell above the head with arms fully extended.
At the end of both the snatch and the clean and jerk, lifters must remain motionless until signaled by the referee to lower the weight.