History of Weightlifting
Courtesy of the IWF
As a basic athletic activity and a natural means to measure strength and power, the lifting of weights was present in both the ancient Egyptian and Greek societies. Boosting its international importance chiefly in the 19th Century, weightlifting was among those few sports (alongside athletics, swimming, gymnastics, fencing, wrestling, shooting and cycling) which featured already on the programme of the first Modern Olympic Games, in 1896, Athens. The first World Championships in this sport, however, had been staged five years earlier: on 28th March 1891, in London, with 7 athletes representing 6 countries.
Weightlifting is thus the only sport whose history in world-wide competitions spans across three centuries: from 1891 through the 20th Century until our days, in 2001.
The power-relations have undergone major changes over the past decades. At the beginning of the century, Austria, Germany and France used to be the most successful nations. Later on, Egypt, then the United States of America reigned. In the 1950s and the following three decades the Soviet Union's weightlifters played the protagonists' role - with Bulgaria becoming a main challenger. Since the mid-'90s, however, Turkey, Greece and China have catapulted to the lead. The most recent word power in weightlifting is China among the men. In the women's field, China has been dominant since the very beginning, with other Asian countries emerging as strong contenders to the champion titles. On the overall, however, Europe is the most powerful continent in competitions of both genders.
The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) today comprises 185 affiliated nations. Approximately ten thousand weightlifters participate annually in official competitions; weight training, however, is an indispensable tool for strength development for all sports and billions of people all over the world have workouts with the barbell for the sake of fitness. Entry figures of World Championships have increased year by year. The participation record was registered at the 1999 World
Championships in Athens, with altogether 660 athletes from 88 countries taking part Including the Olympic Games 2004 in Athens, the men have competed in 22 Olympic Games, 76 World Championships; the junior men in 34 Junior World Championships. The women already had their first Olympic appearance in Sydney 2000 and took part in 19 senior and 14 junior World Championships.
Weightlifting at the Olympic Games
Since 1896, weightlifting featured on 20 Olympic Games. At the sport’s 22nd Olympic appearance in Athens. The most successful Olympic weightlifter of all times is Turkish Naim Süleymanoglu, who won three Olympic titles (1988, 1992, and 1996). Hungarian Imre Földi is a record holder being 5-times Olympian (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976), while American Norbert Schemansky is the only one who won medals in four Games: a silver in 1948, gold in 1952, bronze in 1960 and 1964.
Turkish superstar Halil Mutlu won also 3 Olympic Gold medals 1996, 2000, 2004. He is the only lifter today to have a chance to win 4 Gold medals at Olympic Games, if he competes at the 2008 Olympics.