Australia and Olympic Weightlifting
Australia sent its first weightlifters to London in 1948. Four years later at Helsinki, Vern Barberis won a bronze medal in the lightweight category. It took another 32 years before the next weightlifting medal was won by an Australian; in fact two were won at Los Angeles 1984. Dean Lukin won the gold medal as a super heavyweight and Robert Kabbas, the silver as a light heavyweight. The USSR-led boycott by most of the Eastern Bloc countries removed many of the leading contenders from the weightlifting competition at Los Angeles, particularly in the heavier divisions. Before the boycott was announced, Lukin, a wealthy tuna fisherman from Port Lincoln in South Australia, was considered a chance for a medal but once the boycott came into effect he was elevated to favourite for the gold. In the event, Lukin became Olympic champion but only after a thrilling contest with Mario Martinez from the United States. Australia’s fourth weightlifting medal came with Stefan Botev in the super heavyweight category in Atlanta 1996.
The London Games saw the return of heavyweight Damon Kelly, who competed at the Beijing Games, alongside debutant Seen Lee. Kelly lifted a combined total of 381kg to finish in 18th with Lee, who competed in the 63kg division, finishing in 7th after lifting 186kg.
Australia sent two weightlifting Olympic debutants to Rio in 2016, who both achieved a top 14 finish. Simplice Ribouem finished 13th in the men’s 94kg category, equaling his personal best snatch of 155kg. In the women’s 58kg class, Tia-Clair Toomey finished 14th, lifting a total 189kg – 82kg in the snatch and 107kg in the clean and jerk.
Weightlifting featured in the first modern Olympics at Athens in 1896. The two events in 1896 were the one-handed lift and the two-handed lift and they were open to all competitors regardless of their weight. The sport appeared again at St Louis 1904 (and in the Intercalated Olympics in Athens in 1906) and then at Antwerp 1920 after which it commenced an unbroken run on the Olympic program. Women’s weightlifting was added to the Olympic program at Sydney in 2000.
There is one gold medal awarded for every weight division at the Olympic Games. An athlete’s performance is the total weight from two types of lifts - the snatch and the clean and jerk. In the snatch, athlete’s lift the bar to arm’s length above their head in one smooth movement. In the clean and jerk, they lift the bar to their shoulders, stand up straight, then jerk the bar to arm’s length above their head. In each case the bar must be held above their head for at least two seconds. Lifters are allowed three attempts at each lift.
Three referees judge each lift, and express their verdict by way of lights: white for a good lift; red for an illegal lift. The majority rules in the case of a disagreement.
Should the total of two or more lifters be the same, the result is decided by body weight (i.e the lighter lifter will be declared the winner).