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A Short History of Weightlifting at the Summer Olympics

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THE ORIGINS OF MODERN OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING

Weightlifting

was included in the first modern Summer Olympic Games in 1896. It was tried again at the 1904 Games, and has been contested without interruption at each Olympics since 1920. The first two Olympic weightlifting competitions saw men lift in long-discontinued events and without any weight classes. The sport changed dramatically with the restart of the Olympics following World War I.

At Olympic Games between 1896 and 1924, lifters participated in both one-hand and two-hand events. The one-hand competitions were eliminated prior to the 1928 Games. Another weightlifting discipline--the Clean and Press--was contested at the Olympics for decades but was removed from competition starting in 1972 due to long-standing issues with judging correct form.

There were five weight classes put in place for weightlifting for the 1920 Games with weights ranging from under-60 kilograms to a heavyweight division of 82.5+kg. The number of weight classes was increased at various times over the years until it reached 10 at the 1980 Games, although it was necessary periodically to raise the weight limits in different classes to accomodate larger competitors.

OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING IN RECENT DECADES

With the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the weight classes were consolidated into eight, and this will also be true for the 2012 London Olympics. Men will compete at the following weights: 56kg, 62kg, 69kg, 77kg, 85kg, 94kg, 105kg and 105+kg.

Women first competed in Olympic weightlifting in 2000, but they had been included in various top international meets since the 1980s. Chinese women have won 11 of the 21 golds awarded so far in their sport. The most notable names are Chen Yanqing and Liu Chunhong, both two-time Olympic champions for China. At this summer's Olympics, women will again take part in seven weight classes: 48kg, 53kg, 58kg, 63kg, 69kg, 75kg and 75+kg.

The men and women nowadays test their skills in two events: the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The Snatch involves taking the bar from the floor and pressing it above the head in one continuous movement, while the Clean and Jerk requires lifters to bring the bar to rest at the shoulders before thrusting it over the head.

The late Soviet Union still leads the weightlifting medal table two decades after it expired by amassing 62 medals, with 39 golds. China and the U.S. reside in second with 43 medals, although China has the advantage with 24 golds to 16 for the U.S.

SELECT OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING GREATS

Vasili Alexeyev: The brightest star in weightlifting in the 1970s, Alexeyev won the Olympic heavyweight golds in 1972 and 1976. Alexeyev also accumulated numerous world records during the decade.

Naim Suleymanoglu: The diminutive Suleymanoglu pocketed three consecutive Olympic golds for Turkey between 1988-1996 while competing at under-60 and under-64 kilograms.

Pyrros Dimas: Dimas captured three consecutive Olympic golds for Greece between 1992-2000 and finished his tremendous career with a bronze in 2004. He lifted at weights ranging from under-82.5 kgs to under-85 kgs.

Halil Mutlu: Mutlu earned three straight Olympic crowns for Turkey between 1996-2004 and did so at under-56 kilograms.

Hossein Rezazadeh: The pride of Iran, Rezazadeh won the Olympic superheavyweight titles in 2000 and 2004. He also added many world records to his list of accomplishments throughout his stellar career.

For more information on Olympic weightlifting, please see the Sports Reference site.

Patrick Hattman covers the Olympics for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and looks forward to the drama and excitement of this summer's London Games.

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