U.S. Olympic weightlifting team could be best in 64 years

Olivia Reeves was such a breakthrough in U.S. weightlifting that an Olympic silver medalist moved out of her weight class.

Mary Theisen-Lappen began this Olympic cycle coaching discus and shot put throwers at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She can finish it by lifting at the Paris Games as a reigning world silver medalist.

Jourdan Delacruz is in line to return to the Olympics after just missing a medal in Tokyo.

And Hampton Morris, the first American man to break a senior weightlifting world record since 1969, is set to become the youngest U.S. Olympic weightlifter since 2000.

In Paris, the U.S. weightlifting team could win more than two medals at a single Games for the first time since 1960.

Reeves, Theisen-Lappen, Delacruz, Morris and Wes Kitts make up the Olympic team announced Friday. They qualified via international rankings in April.

Reeves, a University of Tennessee-Chattanooga junior, converted from CrossFit like so many lifters and last year took 71kg bronze at the world championships.

Reeves goes into the Olympics as the top seed with a chance to become the first U.S. weightlifting gold medalist since Tara Nott in 2000.

Reeves' chances improved after China didn't name 2023 World champion Liao Guifang to its team. A nation can enter no more than three athletes per gender among five weight classes. China's team is made up of three other women who are ranked No. 1 in the world at different weights.

Another 71kg standout, Song Kuk-Hyang of North Korea, will not be in Paris. North Korean lifters are ineligible for the Games because they didn’t make themselves available for drug testing throughout the Olympic cycle.

Song won the Asian Championships in February with a clean and jerk world record and a total weight lifted of 269 kilograms, one more kilogram than Reeves lifted at the World Cup in April.

In the U.S., the 71kg division used to be the domain of American Kate Vibert, a world champion and Olympic silver medalist. But after Reeves climbed atop U.S. Olympic qualifying standings last year, Vibert made a last-minute move up to 81kg over the winter.

"When life gives you Olivia Reeves you have no choice but to change the game plan," she reasoned then.

Vibert, whose silver in Tokyo was the best U.S. Olympic weightlifting result in 21 years, still finished qualifying for Paris in the top 10 in international rankings in 71kg and 81kg.

But a nation can send a maximum of three lifters per gender to the Games, and Reeves, Theisen-Lappen and Delacruz are ranked higher in their respective weight classes.

"I added 9 kilos on my total in the past 3 months. I gave it my all, did the impossible, and still fell 5 kilos short of making the Olympic team," was posted on Vibert’s social media in April. "But no one can say (coach) @spencergarnold and I didn't fight. I've prepared mentally for this result and feel at peace. I'm excited to rest, like, actually rest. I'm excited to embark on a new career.

"I'm not quite done (alternates gotta stay in shape) and hoping to be back, maybe for worlds? Maybe not? But either way, I'm honored to be able to represent my country and share the love of weightlifting."

Theisen-Lappen overtook two-time bronze medalist Sarah Robles in Olympic qualifying at +81kg by one kilogram (2.2 pounds).

Theisen-Lappen, 34, picked up competitive weightlifting in her late 20s and won silver in her world championships debut last year. She is in line to make her Olympic debut as the oldest U.S. female lifter since women's events were added at the 2000 Sydney Games, according to the OlyMADMen.

Delacruz is the lone returning Olympian on the women's team. In Tokyo, she was in bronze-medal position after the snatch but didn't complete a clean-and-jerk lift in the 49kg division.

The former competitive cheerleader came back to earn bronze at the 2023 World Championships.

Morris, a 20-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, wrapped up his spot in April by breaking the clean-and-jerk world record in the 61kg class by lifting 176 kilograms (388 pounds).

He moved from seventh in the world in Olympic qualifying to second in his division behind reigning Olympic and world champion Li Fabin of China.

Morris can become the first U.S. man to win an Olympic weightlifting medal since 1984.

Dakotah Lindwurm Fiona O’Keeffe Emily Sisson
Dakotah Lindwurm Fiona O’Keeffe Emily Sisson

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