Despite its recent growth in the United States and throughout the world, the sport of Weightlifting still gets a bad rap. It’s constantly lumped in with other sports and activities such as Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, CrossFit, and good ol’ fashion working out with weights. While all of these things have certain elements in common, Weightlifting stands apart from the rest. It’s not uncommon for Weightlifters to make the transition into Bodybuilding, CrossFit, or Powerlifting, after their Weightlifting careers have ended, but often times athletes from those sports have a hard time transitioning into Weightlifting. Weightlifting has a high skill component not found in Bodybuilding or Powerlifting, it also has a rich competitive history making it one of the most elite sports in the world, opposed to CrossFit which is still in the newborn stages of competition. Despite all of this, Weightlifting is almost always referred to as “Olympic Weightlifting” by those not involved in the sport to differentiate it from some of the other activities already mentioned. For those involved in the sport, this is both disrespectful, and annoying. Here are 5 reasons why we don’t call the it “Olympic Weightlifting”
#1 It’s not the Name of the Sport
This is pretty simple. The sport is called “Weightlifting.” Just because it’s contested in the Olympics doesn’t mean it needs that qualifier. There are a lot of sports in the Olympics, such as swimming, but we don’t call it “Olympic Swimming,” because that would be stupid.
#2 The Word “Olympic” Should be Reserved for Olympians
Recently I traveled to Houston, TX for the 2015 Weightlifting World Championships. This was an important event because it was a qualifier for the Olympic Games next year in Rio. Many people asked me if I had anyone competing, and I had to chuckle each time as I answered “no, unfortunately not.” This would be like going to the Super Bowl and people asking if I had any athletes competing. Making it to the World Championships in Weightlifting is incredibly difficult, and making it to the Olympics is even harder. Here’s a quick break down of the process:
There are 8 men’s weight classes and 7 women’s weight classes in Weightlifting. Each country can send a team of 8 men and 7 women to the world Championships. There are roughly 26,000 registered athletes in Weightlifting in the United States, that means less than 1% of all athletes get to go to the world Championships. USA Weightlifting averaged out the Bronze medal winning totals from each weight class over the last 5 years, and the athletes are ranked by the percentage of that average. For example the women’s +75kg weight class (the one which Arkitect members Mackenzie Roy and Katie White compete in) was 292.2kg. Mackenzie’s best competition total is 196kg, meaning that her percentage of the average is about 67%. Most of the people who made the world team were at 90% or better. Keep in mind Mackenzie finished 10th in her weight class at the 2015 National Championships.
o make it to the Olympic Games is even harder. Why? Because even though Weightlifting is an individual sport, you still earn slots for the Olympics as a team. The most spots you can get is 6 for men, and 4 for women, and that is if your team finishes in the top ten. At this year’s world championships the women’s team were able to secure 3 spots, and the men’s team 0. There is one more way for the US to earn 1 spot for men, which will be next year at the Pan American Championships. That means out of 26,000 athletes, 3 women and possibly 1 man will get to represent the US in the Olympics. It’s an honor, a privilege, and an unbelievable challenge to be able to do it.
#3 Weightlifting was First
Weightlifting was included in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Although the lifts went through some changes over the first few decades, the basic concept has pretty much always been the same. Pick weight up from the ground and get it over your head. The sport hasn’t undergone any major rule or event change since 1972 (and that was just removing the press), so it’s more or less been the same sport since the 1920s when they removed the one handed lifts. Although the first Bodybuilding show ever held was in 1890, a few years prior to the first modern Olympics, it wasn’t until the 1930s that competing in Bodybuilding became a viable thing that people could do. Powerlifting was formed in the 50s, and didn’t really pick up steam until the 1970s, and the first CrossFit competition ever held was only just recently in 2007. Yet Powerlifters get upset when you say that they’re not ‘Weightlifters” and average gym bros who have never competed in any strength sport refer to competitive Weightlifters as CrossFitters. This would be like China celebrating Thanksgiving, and then calling anyone who celebrates Thanksgiving as Chinese.
#4 It Creates Terrible Slang Names
The worst part about people referring to Weightlifting as “Olympic Weightlifting” is all the short hand and slang names that often come with it. It’s hard not to cringe when someone says “I do Oly-Lifting” or even worse “Ollie” (yes that’s a thing, thanks CrossFit!) Once you let that be okay, then it infects everything: Oly Shoes! Oly Plates! Oly Barbells! Ugh.
#5 People Don’t know WTF it is
I’ve heard many people say they gave in to calling it “Olympic Weightlifting” so people knew what they were talking about instead of thinking they were Bodybuilders or Powerlifters, but in reality saying “Olympic Weightlifting” still doesn’t mean anything to people. Conversations usually go like this:
Random Person: Are ya’ll from out of town?
Me: Yes. We’re here for a Weightlifting competition.
Random: Oh so ya’ll are bodybuilders?
Me: No, uhh, Weightlifting, like…Olympic Weightlifting.
Random: (with confused look on their face) ooohhhh….
and occasionally you’ll get the additional: So are ya’ll going to the Olympics?
I don’t think Weightlifting will ever be as popular as American Football or Basketball, but it is gaining popularity and will continue to do so, and by calling it something it’s not, we aren’t going to help it any.
Those are our top 5 reasons why we don’t call the sport “Olympic Weightlifting.” Honestly we probably could have stopped after number 1. What do you think? Are we making a big stink over nothing? Do you find using the word “Olympic” helpful? Drop us a line on facebook and let us know your thoughts!