So last weekend was a pretty big one for USAW. If you live under a rock, have no friends that partake in some form of fitness, or don’t believe in social media then you probably did not know that. But for a large majority of us that compete in the sport of weightlifting the National Championships in Salt Lake City was the capstone on this quad. For those unaware, if you are serious about training in weightlifting your program is measured in “quads”, or four year blocks of time, spanning Olympic Games to Olympic Games. For a select few their quad is still going on (Pan Ams/Trials for the men and Olympic Games for the women/hopefully men), but the large majority of weightlifters are done and focus has started to shift to the next quad leading up to 2020. But before we put Salt Lake City completely in the rear view mirror there are some key points I feel meed to be made. This was my first quad in the sport and I had my fair share of time as a national level competitor, coach, and spectator. But those of you who may be unaware here are 5 things that are now obvious about the sport of weightlifting moving forward.
1.The Future Is Bright
The sheer number of young talent that was on display this weekend was simply incredible. Crossfit has given weightlifting not only a fan base but a feeder system for the sport. Case in point, CJ Cummings and Mattie Rogers. These are two of the youngest and brightest stars we have in the sport. At 15 years old CJ Cummings can take 375# from the floor and put it over his head with ease, and 2.5 years after starting the sport Mattie Rogers was one lift away from making our women’s Olympic Team. There were plenty of other top 10/top finishers and medalists from the under 20 crowd which is exciting to see. This next quad is going to be very competitive and you are not going to hear many stories of the 20-something year old who decided to give the sport a try and medals at their first or second meet. My prediction is that 2020 if you don’t have at least three years of solid training under your belt you better be ok waiting your turn in line. The competition for the top spots in each weight class and international teams is going to be deep and fierce and as a fan/coach/spectator you better be excited about that.
2. The Old Guard Is Not Done Yet
While the young guns are exciting to watch and we can’t wait until they are firing on all cylinders we can’t forget about the present. Those who have been around are not quite ready to relinquish their control on the top spots and that was also displayed this weekend. Kendrick Farris, Alex Lee, Jess Lucero, James Tatum, Melanie Roach and company have all been in the game for a while and showed no signs of stopping. Having these athletes at the top still is key to the longevity of the sport. These athletes know what it’s like to compete at the top of the sport and are full of clutch performances at a moment’s notice to remind fans that there is a reason they are where they belong. Having these examples at the top give those working their way up the ladder a goal to strive for and eventually surpass.
3. No American Records Are Safe
In each Trial session there were numerous American Records being broken. Records that have stood for quite some time were shattered with ease and those athletes looked good for more. With an influx of talent coming into the sport and with how quickly coaches are catching on to proper programming and training methods no record is safe. At some point some of these records will be pushed to the point where they are knocking on the door of World Records. We are already seeing this in the Youth and Junior ranks and it’s only a matter of time before those athletes move on to the Senior level and do the same thing. Bottom line USAW needs to make sure the “NEW RECORD” banner that pops up on the screen is ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This is probably the one that makes me the happiest about the development of the sport. The abundance of quality coaching is the simply amazing. The best part about this is there is a huge melting pot of information being shared. Between social media, the internet, classes, seminars, workshops, etc. if you are an up and coming coach the possibilities are endless on how to expand your knowledge base. Our higher level coaches are making a concerted effort to share what they know and how they got where they are with anyone that will listen and in return the sport as a whole is allowed to grow and prosper. Just as with the new crop of athletes making their way through USAW the same is happening with coaches which in turn gives athletes more options for quality instruction and growth as they work towards the goals. The best part of all of this, being a weightlifting coach can be a career! Obviously only true if done right but 5 years ago, that was not the case. We are providing multiple resources to our coaches so they can in turn help the sport develop. The higher ups have even created a Coaching Development Course led by Level 5 coaches (the highest ranking in this country for USAW coaches) to further the cause. Not much to complain about here and if you have something to be bitter about you are searching hard for problems at this point.
5. Live Streaming Just Isn’t Our Thing
Whether it’s Coach’s Aid, FloElite, or NBC Sports, weightlifting is cursed when it comes to live streaming our big events. Apparently Periscope is a viable option though so who knows if that’ll work in the future. By the way this is mostly joking, relax. Technology doesn’t cooperate all the time, but as a spectator it is a little comical that the last 3-4 national events the stream has cut out for a portion of the competition regardless of the company running it.
Bonus Point: Weightlifting Is No Longer In The Dark
Argue all you want about there being no true professionals in the United States or the fact that our top athletes don’t have the funding needed to train full time but the sport is no longer an unknown. When I first dabbled in weightlifting in 2011 the only way folks knew about the snatch or clean and jerk was through college strength and conditioning or they trained the lifts at an old YMCA back in the 60’s-80’s. For the longest time when you told someone you were a weightlifter the automatic response was “oh cool, how much do you bench?” Thanks to Crossfit, yes I said it, the snatch and clean and jerk are staple movements in the fitness industry. Yes there are still lots of misconceptions about these movements and lots of “gurus” bastardizing the lifts for a quick buck, but the general population knows what these exercises are and have probably seen them performed a time or two. 300# snatches and 400# cleans are not a mythical thing rarely seen by the average Joe, but a goal written down for someone to accomplish at the beginning of a calendar year. We have celebrities in the sport! That’s probably the biggest indicator on the popularity of the sport. Mention CJ Cummings, Mattie Rogers, Morghan King, or any other top lifter and someone knows one or a few of them That’s a big deal people. Crossfit created a fan base for the sport as well a feeder system introducing hundreds of new athletes into the sport, some of which have developed into top Youth, Junior, and Senior level talents. Gone our the days where our elders can sit in the corner of a dirty gym and complain about the lack of exposure or respect the sport gets now while they reminisce about the glory days of Takano, Wilhelm, Barnett, and Nott. Don’t get it twisted, the sport has a long ways to go before mainstream status but the foundation has been laid and the higher ups have the sport moving in the right direction. My Facebook and Instagram feeds were flooded with images, videos, and anecdotes of the weekend leaving me with a pretty complete picture of the event and I wasn’t even in attendance. That’s a long way from a skating rink a few years back. The Sport is on the up and up and it can only keep getting better with the right folks leading the way.
Congratulations to all of those who competed, coached, and put on the 2016 National Championships and Olympic Trials in Salt Lake City. This was another top notch event and it put our sport in the best light possible on a bigger stage. The new regime in charge is doing right by those who’ve competed, are competing, and have still yet to step foot on a national platform. A special congratulations to our 2016 Olympians Jenny Arthur, Morghan King, and Sarah Robles and best of luck to our men heading to the Pan American Championships in a few months to lock in their Olympic spot and see who will represent on the men’s side.