“It’s like poker, but the chips weigh as much as a steel girder and the athletes…well they’re the cards”
The outdated perception of weightlifting is that of a two dimensional sport that involves a large man or woman grabbing a barbell and proceeding to either succeed or fail to strong arm said weight above their head.
“It’s easier said than done” explains Moira Lassen, Competition Manager for Weightlifting at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, “it’s a big mix of mind games, hard graft, and handling the pressure”
Weightlifting is one of the most underrated adrenaline fuelled extreme sports at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. It’s a supercharged competition that can see an athlete dominate an event, only to find themselves staring at a winner’s podium rather than being on it.
Knowing the sport
Weightlifting comprises of two lifts; the ‘Snatch’ and the ‘Clean and Jerk’. Three separate attempts can be made in each lift, but if an athlete fails to make a valid lift in the ‘Snatch’, they are immediately disqualified and unable to compete in the ‘Clean and Jerk’.
The heaviest weight that the athlete successfully makes in both lifts is combined and provides the athletes total score. The athlete with the highest total score is declared the winner. It’s that easy.....and it’s that hard.
The competition becomes more intense for athletes as the weight on bar can only go up, there’s no turning back once the weights and the stakes have been raised.
Behind the scenes it’s all happening in the warm-up room. The warm-up room is where the athlete depends on the solid support of their coaching officials. The coaches have the steely nerves of seasoned poker players, pushing their athletes to the limit and hoping they don’t go bust. Coaches determine how much an athlete can handle without ‘bombing’ out of competition.
“People call it the warm-up room, but it’s actually the hottest place in the venue” states Moira “It’s a numbers game and the coaches are taking calculated risks on behalf of their athletes; it’s the athlete’s job to lift the weight. It’s really amazing, because the athletes can be so focused and in the zone, sometimes without knowing what weight is on the bar, or what that weight means, like a medal or record, they just go out and lift it.”
Weightlifting is a game of raising stakes, with athletes becoming the fully loaded cards in a seismic poker game that results in a payload of Gold, Silver or Bronze medals. Coaches employ a battle of wills, encouraging athletes to bluff and attempt to catch their opponents off guard.
According to Moira, “it’s like poker, but the chips weigh as much as a steel girder and the athletes...well they’re the cards. Coaches will try and intimidate each other and the technical officials. They may prompt their athlete to bluff how much they are lifting; to make it look like they are struggling when in actual fact they’re just trying to fool their competitors and other coaches.”
Size doesn’t matter
Another misconception of Weightlifting is that athletes need to be giant, hulking musclebound leviathans. Athletes compete in 15 bodyweight categories- eight for men and seven for women.
“An athlete’s weight doesn’t really matter” explains Moira. “It’s the combination of the weight they are lifting within their own bodyweight category. Heavier athletes can look more imposing because the amount of discs on the barbell and bar, made of steel, is actually bending, but the athletes in the lighter categories are lifting a comparative amount to their bodyweight so it’s just as impressive.”
This view is supported by the sport rule that if two athletes achieve the same total within the bodyweight category, the athlete with a lighter bodyweight is ranked higher. Athletes can take the gold medal from another by .01 grams; the average weight of a feather.
Dominant nations and territories
Many parts of the Commonwealth are famed for their weightlifting prowess such as Australia, England, Canada, India and Nigeria. Although rank outsiders are able to grab a share of the spoils on the weightlifting platform, such as, Nauru’s former President, Marcus Stephen proved with seven gold medals over his career.
Look out for all these nations when it comes to the competition as they will be in the mix for the coveted Commonwealth Games medals and there are bound to be a few surprise additions to the podium and this year, and host nation Scotland is sure to have a few cards up its sleeve.
Tickets are available for Weightlifting and a handful of other exciting Glasgow 2014 sports. Buy your tickets now!