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Weightlifting Events in the 2012 Summer Olympics

For many, Olympic weightlifting brings to mind images of giant men sweating under enormous barbells, each athlete struggling to lift more than the guy before him. This scenario is a pretty accurate description of the sport — except women compete in Olympic weightlifting now, too.

Weightlifting is based on brute strength and is one of the oldest competitive sports. Men’s weightlifting has been a part of the modern Olympic Games since 1896, but women’s Olympic weightlifting did not become a reality until the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

In the Olympics, each competing country may enter up to ten athletes of any gender, but no more than two in the same event (because of the weight classifications, men and women never compete with each other).

Fifteen total sets of gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded in Olympic weightlifting — eight men’s events and seven women’s events:

  • Men’s Olympic weightlifting events include the 56 kilogram, 62 kilogram, 69 kilogram, 77 kilogram, 85 kilogram, 94 kilogram, 105 kilogram, and +105 kilogram weight classes.

  • Women's competition includes the 48 kilogram, 53 kilogram, 58 kilogram, 63 kilogram, 69 kilogram, 75 kilogram, and +75 kilogram weight classes.

Every sport has its share of weird-sounding jargon, and weightlifting is no exception. The two basic lifts performed in Olympic weightlifting are the snatch and the clean and jerk:

  • To perform a snatch, you lift the barbell from its resting point on the floor to directly over your head with both arms outstretched in one continuous motion.

  • To do a clean and jerk, you first lift the barbell up to your shoulders, quickly shift your weight, and then jerk the bar up over your head.

Athletes compete with others of the same body weight (or within a certain weight range, more precisely).

The competition takes place on a 4 meter x 4 meter and 10 centimeter platform with three referees observing. Other than their feet, no part of the competitor’s body may touch the mat at any time. Each competitor gets three attempts to successfully complete a lift.

The score is determined by combining the best lift from each event (best snatch plus best clean and jerk). The athlete who successfully lifts the most total weight between the two events wins. If there is a tie, the competitor with the least bodyweight wins the competition. Some competitors may lift more than three times their body weights!

Official rules and records regarding Olympic weightlifting competition are governed by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), which is located in Budapest, Hungary.

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