Weightlifting – the ultimate test of raw, physical strength – has a long, illustrious history in countries such as Greece and Egypt. However, it only really developed as a sport at the end of the 19th century, principally in Europe.
The first International Federation for the sport was established in Austria in 1890. Six years later, weightlifting featured in the first edition of the Olympic Games of the Modern Era, in Athens, Greece, as part of the gymnastics programme.
The sport was removed from the Olympic programme at the Paris 1900 Games, but returned at the St. Louis 1904 Games as part of the athletics competition. It was excluded, once again from London 1908 and Stockholm 1912, but it was back for good from Antwerp 1920 onwards, although only for men. Women’s weightlifting was only introduced to the Olympic programme in Sydney in 2000.
The sport has 15 categories: eight for men and seven for women, differentiated according to the athletes’ weight. The competition takes place on a platform measuring four by four metres, with a maximum height of 15 centimetres. The weight discs are secured to the bar with two steel collars, each weighing 2.5 kilograms.
Weightlifting consists of two events: the snatch, and the clean and jerk. In the first, competitors must lift the bar up from the platform, and in one single, smooth movement, raise it above their head until their arms are fully extended, while either spreading or bending their legs. They must then keep their balance and hold the bar up for two seconds, until the judges give the signal to drop it.
The clean and jerk is a composite of two movements. In the clean movement, the athlete lifts the barbell from the floor to the shoulders. The jerk sees the lifter raise the bar above their head, keeping the arms and legs outstretched. After three attempts at each lift, the heaviest weights lifted by the athlete in each section are added together to determine the overall results.
Participants have three attempts in each event to lift as much weight as possible. Having successfully lifted a weight on the bar, the minimum weight increase must be 2kg between the first and second attempts, and an increase of at least 1kg between the second and third.
The winner is the person who has lifted the greatest total weight when their best attempts in the snatch and in the clean and jerk have been added up. If there is a tie, the athlete who weighs the least wins. If still further differentiation is needed, the person who attained the best score first will be declared winner.