Philadelphia, PA – An event that relies on quick and explosive strength, weightlifting has a long history in the Olympic games with evidence of competition in lifting heavy objects evident in the ancient cultures of Greece and Egypt. Weightlifting has also had a long tradition in the modern era Olympics, which began in 1896.
Competitive weightlifting was one of the events in the inaugural Olympic Games in 1896 and again in 1904 before becoming a fixture at the Summer Games in 1920.
Originally the competition was split into the one hand lift and the two hand lift. For the 1920 games the institution of weight classes altered the sport. In that first year there were five weight classes which has since expanded to eight for men and seven for women.
The Olympic weightlifting competition is a basic sport in which the main goal is to successfully complete a single lift of a barbell with weighted plates. Competitors must complete two different techniques in the event -- the snatch and the clean-and-jerk.
Each competitor is given three attempts to successfully execute each technique and the two highest successful lifts determine the overall result for the competitor. Failure to complete one of each causes an athlete to fail to 'total' and thus receive an incomplete entry in the competition.
The Former Soviet Union still holds the top spot in total medals at 62 in the event, including the most gold (39) and silver (21) after dominating the sport from the early 1950s into the mid-1980s.
Russia has continued to be successful with 21 medals since the 1992 games.
Among countries still competing, China and the United States are both tied with 43 medals all-time, although China has the second most gold medals ever with 24.
Bulgaria (36 total medals) and Poland (30 medals) have also had success in the sport and are the only other countries with more than 21 total medals.
China and Russia will again be heavily favored to place with 10 qualified athletes, which ties for the most at the 2012 Games along with South Korea.
Russia will be led by Dmitry Klokov (105 kg), who won silver in the event at the 2008 Beijing games while lifters such as Long Quingquan (56 kg) and Liu Chunhong (69 kg), who is the two-time defending lifter in her weight class, will try to keep China's recent dominance alive.
Although a look at historical numbers makes the United States seem like a force in the event, a U.S. lifter has not reached the podium in any weight class since the 2000 Sydney Games, when Cheryl Haworth took bronze in the Super Heavyweight (+75 kg) class.
The United States has only three qualified lifters to try to break that losing trend and the team is highlighted by Holley Mangold. The younger sister of NFL offensive linemen Nick Mangold, Holley is making her Olympic debut in London. She earned her spot in the 2012 Games after posting a personal best total of 562 pounds in the Olympic qualifiers and will be headed to London as one of the more intriguing and popular American athletes.
Mangold will not have to look beyond her own team for stiff competition. Sarah Robles (75kg) also qualified for the event and did so by topping all lifters, including Mangold, at the Olympic qualifiers.
The drought for a medal has been even longer on the men's side with a male U.S. lifter last making the podium in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
The United States has only one athlete this year to end that run. Kendrick Farris (85kg) has that pressure on his shoulders and will try to build on the gold medal he won at the 2010 Pan American Championships while in London.
Canada will also be sending three lifters, all of which are female, to London this summer. Since the inception of the Olympic games, Canada has only two medals in the sport with the last one coming in the 1984 games. Neither of those two came in the women's events.
The three competitors trying to become the first female Canadian weightlifting medalist are Annie Moniqui (53kg), Christine Girard (63kg) and Marie-Eve Beacuchemin-Nadeau (69 kg).
Girard is the biggest threat to get to the podium, finishing fourth in the 2008 Beijing Games before capturing gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2011 Pan American Games.