An Equal Playing Field: Female Olympic Weightlifting Coaches
by David C. Williams
The first time I saw a female weightlifter lift weights was at the 1988 Seoul Olympics when I was living in Korea. I had been following the sport since its inception in the 1950’s and even competed myself back then. After watching her perform, it seemed obvious to me that she wasn’t just any girl; she was a woman lifting weights like a man!
I thought nothing more of it until a few years later when I returned to the States. While my wife and I were enjoying our retirement, I happened upon some old weight training magazines from the 1980’s. One of them caught my eye and after perusing through several pages, I found one with an advertisement for a women’s weightlifting team in New York City.
When we got home, we decided to check out the gym where they trained.
What did we see?
A bunch of guys squatting and deadlifting heavy things while wearing tank tops and shorts. I knew then that something was very wrong with the way women were being represented in weightlifting.
Over the next couple of decades, I became increasingly frustrated by what I perceived as blatant sexism in the sport. Women weren’t allowed to compete at all (or only if they met certain physical requirements) and there were no opportunities for them to train or coach other women. I thought if I could just do something about it myself, it would help.
I wanted to train a female weightlifter for the 2000 Olympics. It was my fondest desire to see a woman from our gym compete in weightlifting at the highest level. I started going online and looking for potential athletes who might meet the Olympic qualifying standard.
I found several women who were interested in weightlifting, but after three months of training, I only had one left. The others had quit. My last prospect was a teenage girl who seemed very serious about weightlifting.
I didn’t want to push her too hard since I could tell she was a little shy and quiet, but I wanted to motivate her to work harder. So, I told her about the many benefits of competing in the sport of weightlifting and how our gym could help her get to the Olympics one day.
The thing is, none of that was true. Though I knew all the right things to say, I just didn’t have the funding or resources to make it happen. It took a lot of willpower on her part, but my lifter persevered and we began training together.
As she got stronger and more skilled, I focused all my energy on getting her to the 2000 Olympics which were to be held in Australia that year.
After a lot of hard work and determination, she made the team. Sadly, I was never able to go watch her compete. I wanted to, but at that time the cost of an airline ticket was prohibitive for me.
Even though she never won a medal, I was still proud of her for all her hard work and dedication. My lifter trained very hard even though we didn’t have the resources that other countries did. She ended up quitting the sport soon after the games were over.
In that moment, I realized something was very wrong with the sport of weightlifting. All of my work and dedication to the sport had led to just one person having a chance to compete while other people sat on the sidelines.
Why should only one person get to go when they have the same desire and passion? How can someone get left behind because they don’t have enough money?
This doesn’t seem right. It was then I decided to start my own online clothing store so that I could earn enough money to send people to competitions.
Through my various websites, I started sponsoring some athletes and providing equipment for others. I even held a competition of my own. This is when I got the idea to start my own federation.
I was tired of watching my lifters get discouraged by the poor treatment they had to put up with in other countries. I didn’t want my athletes to have to jump through hoops just to get basic equipment. I wanted them to be treated like human beings and not like stray dogs.
This community is run on the tenets of peace, love, unity, and a whole lot of heavy lifting. Everyone is welcome here no matter what race, gender, or sexual orientation. When you join this federation, you join a family.
I want people to look back on their time here with fondness and remember the great friends they made while achieving unmatched strength.
I will be running this federation from now until the day I die or get incapacitated. It’s my baby, and I’m going to raise it the best that I can. This is more than a website; this is more like a real nation.
Please everyone, conduct yourselves as such.
I’m sure there will be growing pains, but I know we’ll get through them as long as we stay focused. Thanks and go forth, my brothers and sisters of the iron nation!
Your Leader and Creator,
Sources & references used in this article:
Weightlifting: A brief overview by MH Stone, KC Pierce, WA Sands… – Strength and …, 2006 – search.proquest.com
The relationship between vertical jump power estimates and weightlifting ability: a field-test approach by JM Carlock, SL Smith, MJ Hartman… – The Journal of …, 2004 – journals.lww.com
Unique aspects of competitive weightlifting by A Storey, HK Smith – Sports medicine, 2012 – Springer
Reliability of performance of elite Olympic weightlifters by MR McGuigan, MK Kane – The Journal of Strength & Conditioning …, 2004 – journals.lww.com
A comparison of maximal power outputs between elite male and female weightlifters in competition by J Garhammer – Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 1991 – journals.humankinetics.com
A Review of power output studies of olympic and powerlifting: methodology, performance by J Garhammer – J. Strength Cond. Res, 1993 – cdn.criticalbench.com
Biomechanical analysis of women weightlifters during the snatch by DL Hoover, KM Carlson… – Journal of Strength …, 2006 – search.proquest.com