The aim of weightlifting is simple: to lift more than anyone else. The result is pure sporting theatre and a real spectator favourite.
Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"
We will show you the rules and highlights of weightlifting in one minute. Whether you are familiar with weightlifting or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.
The forerunner of weightlifting was the lifting of heavy stones in contests of strength, a feat practised throughout the ancient world. Weightlifting as an organised sport also has a long history and was included in the programme at the very first modern Olympic Games, Athens 1896.
The events at Athens 1896 and St. Louis 1904 used different techniques to today, while all lifters competed in the same events regardless of bodyweights. Athletes were grouped by bodyweights first at Antwerp 1920, and two lifting techniques the ‘snatch’ and the ‘clean and jerk’ standardised from Montreal 1976. Women's events were first included at the Sydney 2000 Games.
In the snatch, the bar is lifted from the floor to above the head in one movement. By contrast, the clean and jerk is a two-stage action — the bar is first brought up to the chest before being jerked over the head.
Athletes compete by performing each of these lifts three times and adding together the highest weight lifted in each.
- 61kg (Men)
- 67kg (Men)
- 73kg (Men)
- 81kg (Men)
- 96kg (Men)
- 109kg (Men)
- +109kg (Men)
- 49kg (Women)
- 55kg (Women)
- 59kg (Women)
- 64kg (Women)
- 76kg (Women)
- 87kg (Women)
- +87kg (Women)
Essence of the Sport
Force of body and mind
Weightlifting may seem a simple sport, but it demands supreme physical and mental control. Lifting more than twice his/her bodyweight from the floor to above the head is not just about mobilising every muscle in the body. To achieve this feat of explosive power requires absolute focus, superb technique and a fighting spirit.
Athletes must attempt a lift within one minute of their name being called. This is increased to two minutes where successive lifts are to be attempted. The need to prepare the body and mind in such a short time can challenge the athlete's rhythm and ability to remain calm yet energised.
In the snatch, the weight is lifted in one continuous motion and the lifter stands motionless, arms and legs extended, with feet in line. In the clean and jerk the lifter first lifts the weight on to the chest (clean), then extends the arms and legs, with feet once more in line (jerk). When the barbell is lifted, the elbows must not be bent and there should be no imbalance in the extension of the arms.
If the barbell is dropped before a signal to do so, the lift is considered a fail. Referees will also penalise failure to start a lift within the allocated time or touching the platform with any part of the body other than the soles of the feet.
Each lifter is allowed three attempts at the snatch and three attempts at the clean and jerk. Their best lift in each is combined to determine their overall result (total). If an athlete fails to make a valid lift with any of their three attempts in the snatch, they are eliminated from the competition and cannot proceed to the clean and jerk.
When a tie occurs, the athlete who reached that total weight first in terms of time becomes the winner.
Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games
Powering to the podium
There were eight bodyweight categories for men and seven for women at the Rio 2016 Games. On 1 November 2018, the IWF introduced 10 new bodyweight categories for men and women, and at Tokyo 2020 each gender will compete in seven of those ten bodyweight categories.
Throughout Olympic history, the People's Republic of China and the former Soviet Union countries have been most successful in weightlifting. Chinese weightlifters won four consecutive gold medals in the men's 69kg category from Athens 2004 through to Rio 2016, and China's women have won 14 of 35 gold medals since Sydney 2000.
Athletes from other Asian countries, as well as those from Europe, are always contenders. At the Rio 2016 Games, and aged just 22, Lasha Talakhadze from Georgia completed a snatch of 215kg and a clean and jerk of 258kg in the men's heaviest bodyweight category (men's +105kg) to take the gold medal with a world record total of 473kg. Among women, Lidia Valentin Perez of Spain added to her Olympic medal collection in the women's 75kg category (Beijing 2008: silver, London 2012: gold, Rio 2016: bronze) and is expected to collect another one in Tokyo 2020.
The one hand lift. The barbell was lifted one-handed in a style similar to the snatch of today. Launceston Elliot of Great Britain recorded an impressive 71kg.