Learn about this Summer Olympic sport

April 27, 2012

Thailand's Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon holds up 126 kilograms to set a new Olympic record and win a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

A sport for only the toughest of athletes, Olympic weightlifting requires power, technique, flexibility and consistency. Although weightlifting is a full-body activity, a lifter's strength comes primarily from the legs, followed by the back and shoulders. However, weightlifters do not need to be heavy; they compete against each other in one of eight (one of seven for women) weight classes.

Rules of the Game

This individual sport consists of two lifts: "the snatch" and "the clean and jerk." In both lifts, competitors begin with a weighted barbell on the floor and end with it held steady over their head, with their arms and legs straight and motionless. For the snatch, a lifter must raise the barbell overhead from the floor in one continuous motion as quickly as possible. In the clean and jerk, the barbell is brought from the floor to the lifter's chest. Rapidly pushing the bar up and straightening the arms completes the lift.

In competition, three judges independently determine the successfulness of a lift. A judge shows a white light to signal success, while an unsuccessful lift is indicated with a red light. Two white lights are required for a lift to be named successful.

The athletes are allowed to do each lift three times, at a weight of their choice. Out of these three attempts, the highest score is used. Once the highest value has been determined for each lift, the total weight lifted in the snatch is added to the total weight lifted in the clean and jerk. The competitor who hoisted the highest combined weight is the winner.


Click here to read about wrestling at the Olympic Games.

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