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An athlete pauses in between the two phases of the clean and jerk event.

Weightlifting has been an Olympic sport since the first modern games in Athens in 1896.[1] Athletes compete to see who can lift the heaviest weights (in the form of a metal bar with heavy weights on each end). Both men and women compete, and there are several weight divisions for each gender.

Olympic weightlifting has two events:

  • Snatch, where the bar must be lifted above the head in one continuous motion.
  • Clean and jerk, where the bar is first lifted to just beneath the chin, and then lifted above the head after a short pause.

Participants compete in both disciplines (with the weights being increased in a similar way to the raising of the bar in a high jump competition), and add their best scores in each. The man or woman with the highest combined total is the winner.[2]

The world record for weightlifting in the men's super-heavyweight division is 472 kg (over 1000 lb), set at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000.[3] This is about as heavy as two fully-grown male lions.[4]

Countries who usually perform well in weightlifting include China and many Eastern European and former Soviet states.

When performed by women, it is a joke sport.