The Oly Encyclopedia 6

Why become a weightlifter?

While the reasons that people fall in love with the sport of weightlifting are all different, the most important reason to become a weightlifter is that it's fun to be strong, but there is much more.

Those who have acquired a proficiency in weightlifting, acknowledge that they've never participated in a sport that they enjoyed as much.

There is a feeling that comes from executing a perfect lift with a maximum weight that almost defies description. Amazingly, a limit lift performed in perfect style feels almost weightless to the lifter.

This feeling of effortlessness gives one a sense of triumph over the weight that is something akin to the way baseball players feel when they hit a home run. what basketball players feel when they ''swish'' a challenging jump shot, or what golfers feel when they've sunk a perfect put. But most athletes who have experienced the joys of other sports as well as weightlifting feel that weightlifting provides the biggest thrill of all.

Why? No one knows for sure. Perhaps it is because knowledge of your success is immediate and certain. In baseball, basketball, or golf, you have to wait for the ball to travel before success is assured. In football you may make a good ''hit'', but your opponent's response may still not be as desired. In gymnastics or diving an athlete receives a certain degree of immediate feedback, just as one does in weightlifting. However, the athlete must then wait to see if the judges agree with his or her own impressions. In weightlifting there are judges too. But these judges are there merely to rule on marginal performances. When a lifter does a clean lift there is no doubt the lift is good (there are no points awarded in weightlifting competition for technique per se). In my more than thirty years in the sport. I have almost never seen a totally clean lift turned down by competent officials. I have only seen marginal lifts judged inconsistently. When you make a lift properly, you know it, and you know it in a split second.

Perhaps another reason for the pleasure that you get out of weightlifting is the certainty that comes from being at your best. If you shoot a hole in on in golf, roll a strike in bowling or hit home run in baseball, there can never be any certainty that the result truly came from your own best ever performance. The hole-in-one may have resulted from a gust of wind or a bump in the green. To be sure, you must have hit a very good shot, but other factors may have played a role. In rolling a strike you could have been assisted by a groove in the alley. In baseball, the distance of a hit can be influenced by the speed with which the pitcher threw the ball or the liveliness of the ball itself.

In weightlifting, the barbell is the barbell. It is manufactured to exacting specifications and its weight is precise. moreover, in competition everyone uses the same one. There is generally little doubt that when you lift a new personal best you are at your all time best. The combination f training, diet, rest and mental preparation was just right to make it happen. Strength, speed and coordination were all at a peak. The reward was to hold aloft the greatest weight that you have ever lifted and to savor the fruits of your hard earned success. There is simply no other thrill like it in all of sport.

Another reason for the satisfaction that weightlifting provides is that there is probably no sport for which the training is harder. The training is not necessarily harder than that of other sports in terms of the calories expended, the time spent, or even the total weight lifted on a training session (some manual laborers lift more total tons in a day than even top weightlifters). Rather, it is the intensity of the physical and mental effort that goes into a single maximum lift that makes weightlifting such a tremendous challenge.

Because the challenge is so great, the satisfaction that one gains from success in weightlifting is great as well - you truly must give your all to succeed.

Still another reason for weightlifting's appeal is that while it can have a limited element of ''team'' competition. It is first and foremost an individual sport. Your success in weightlifting depends on you and you alone. Teammates can offer many kinds of indirect help. Coaches can provide valuable feedback on your performance. Friends, relatives and teammates can lend their moral support. But the ultimate outcome of competition depends on you. If you fail, the agony is yours. When you succeed, the glory belongs to you. If everyone on your teams goes out to party the day before the competition, that is their problem. If you are the only left in the gym late at night, gutting out the last few lifts on an exercise that you know you need, only you will benefit. everyone else may have showered and gone home long before. Their lack of discipline cannot help them when they are on the platform, alone with a barbell. You are the master of you fate. Officials are at competitions for only one purpose in weightlifting: to assure that you comply with the rules of the competition. They are not there to judge your strength, your technique or your character. The weights you lift are the measure of your competitive success. The officials don't have to know you or like you for you to succeed. Your race, religion, nationality or economic status have no bearing on your treatment in competition. This is not because of rules or laws, but because there is a strong tradition of judging people solely on their ability in the sport of weightlifting. All of the peoples of the earth have their strongmen and strongwomen. It has always been that way and so it will always be. It is no accident that arguably the for greatest weightlifters who ever lived (John Davis, Tommy Kono, Naim Suleymanoglu and Vasili Alexseev) were, respectively, of African, Asian, Asian/European (Turkish) and European heritage.

All of mankind is welcome in weightlifting and has always been.

In competition nothing matches the drama of weightlifting. Each athlete, regardless of his or her level of ability, gets his or her moment in the spotlight. this is partly because weightlifting is an individual sport where the focus is on the effort of the individual. But it is more than that. Unlike most individual sports, weightlifting is conducted one lift at a time. There are no multiple events going on at the same time (as i gymnastics or track and field). The focus is on each lifter as he or she performs. From the standpoint of the audience, this can make for a somewhat slow moving event as each athletes takes a turn. For the athlete, however, it means that each will have a moment to achieve his or her personal glory with complete concentration. In addition, there is a natural build up in excitement as the competition progress. Weightlifting competitions open with the lightest weight requested by any athlete and end with the heaviest, so even though every athlete has his or her moment in spotlight, the ''best'' is saved for last. However, the astute audience of weightlifting love a courageous battle with the barbell, so regardless of the weight on the bar, a lifter who has fought well - win or lose - is greatly admired, respected and applauded, as he or she should be.

Finally. one of the most endearing features of weightlifting is the camaraderie that is so much part of the sport. Since there are so few weightlifters in the united States, we cherish each other friendship all the more. We converge often to local competitions and several time a year to hold national competitions. There, beyond the competitions themselves, we have an opportunity to renew friendships that seems to last forever. We are friends bound by the powerful adhesive of a deep love and admiration for the sport and those who engage in it. Looking to each other, we now that there is only one reason for our being at he event: our love of weightlifting. The essentially ''amateur'' nature of weightlifting has its drawbacks, but surely on of the overwhelming virtues of this amateur approach is that those of us who participate do so because our love for the sport is pure and deep. No one even looks at another competitor or contributor and wonders: '' Is he or she in it primarily for the fame or fortune?''In weightlifting, there is only one fundamental coin of the real: devotion to, and love for, the sport.

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