First Olympic Appearance: 1896 (men); 2000 (women)
by John Gettings and Mark Zurlo
Did You Know?
Turkey's Naim Suleymanoglu, who is considered the greatest Olympic weightlifter in history, weighed just 140 pounds and stood 4 feet, 11 inches tall. That combination of size and strength earned him the nickname "The Pocket Hercules."
It's impossible to put an exact date on the first weightlifting competition, but to give you an idea, ancient Chinese texts and Greek statues commonly depict the feat. Not much about the sport has changed since then. The winner is still the man—and finally the woman—to lift the most weight.
Women's weightlifting made its first Olympic appearance in 2000. Both men and women must complete two different lifts in this event. In a "snatch lift", the barbell is pulled from the platform to above the head in one continuous motion. In a "clean-and-jerk" the lift is done in two motions. First, the bar is pulled up to the shoulders as the lifter goes into a squat and follows that with a burst into an upright position. Once there, with the bar resting on their chest, the lifter must extend his/her arms and raise the bar above their head and wait for the referee's signal.
The maximum weights the lifter is able to successfully lift using both techniques are added together to determine the winner.
If you want to keep track of how much each competitor is lifting it's easy because the plates at either end of the bar are color coded according to their weight: Red 25 kg/55 lbs; Blue 20 kg/44 lbs; Yellow 15 kg/33 lbs; Green 10 kg/22 lbs; White 5 kg/11 lbs; Black 2.5 kg/5.5 lbs; Silver 1.25 kg/2.75 lbs; Record Disks .25 kg/.55 lbs. And don't forget the bar-the men's bar weighs 44 pounds and the women's bar weighs 33 pounds.
Men compete in eight weight classes, and the women seven. The maximum weights for each of those classes were new in 2000, therefore, each gold medallist automatically established a new Olympic record in their weight class.
The weightlifting competition at the Beijing Games will feature 170 men and 90 women and will be held at the 5,400-seat Beijing University Gymnasium.
- More from 2008 Summer Olympics