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Olympics guide: Weightlifting

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Here's your must-know guide for sitting on the sofa, not lifting your remote, while the world's strongest lift sickening weights for your viewing pleasure.

Athletes: 260

Gold up for grabs: 15

Olympic Presence: 1896, 1904, 1920–present

Olympic Format: Athletes in all weight categories perform two lifts: the snatch, in which they raise the bar over their heads in one movement, and the clean-and-jerk, in which they do it in two. The maximum weights a competitor lifts in each are added together to give his or her total.

Current Contenders: Greece, Turkey, Russia, Bulgaria and China are theleading nations in men’s weightlifting. Asian lifters, Chinese in particular, Asian lifters, Chinese in particular, are likely to dominate the women’s competition.

Past Champions: USSR : 39 | China: 24 | USA : 16 | Bulgaria: 12

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THE BASICS

Format

Men compete in eight bodyweight categories (56kg, 62kg, 69kg, 77kg, 85kg, 94kg, 105kg, 105kg+) and women in seven (48kg, 53kg, 58kg, 63kg, 69kg, 75kg, 75kg+). 156 men and 104 women will take part in the weightlifting competitions in London. No nation may enter more than ten individuals in total or more than two in any one event.

Rules

Competitors are required to register successful lifts in both the snatch (pictured, below) and the clean-and-jerk, which take placein that order. A maximum of three attempts is allowed in each discipline, whether the lifts are successful or not.

After being called to the platform, a competitor has one minute to commence their lift or two if they made the previous lift in the competition themselves. If they succeed in lifting a weight, it must be increased by at least 1kg for their next attempt (though they are usually increased in multiples of 2.5kg).

For a lift to be declared valid it must be performed in the correct number of movements – one in the snatch, two in the clean-and-jerk. Once the weight is above the head, the elbows must be locked, the legs brought together and the competitor must be in complete control for long enough for at least two of the three judges to register a good lift. They do this by pressing buttons which illuminate white lights.

No-lifts are signalled by red lights. A jury is on hand to vet the judges’ decisions. If a lifter drops the bar before lowering it to waist height, the lift is technically invalid. If two competitors lift the same total weight during the competition, the one with the lower bodyweight is placed higher in the rankings.

Technique

The standard way of gripping the bar is known as the hook. The thumb is wrapped around the bar and the first and second fingers are placed tightly over it. The snatch is the more difficult of the two disciplines as the lifter must judge precisely when to position their body under the rising bar for the decisive upwards push. Too early and the bar will come down on to their chest.

Too late and it will fall behind, quite possibly dislocating the lifter’s shoulders in the process. Lifters generally place their hands less far apart on the bar for the clean-and-jerk than for the snatch. Having completed the first movement (bringing the bar to shoulder height), the lifter drops into a squat position before simultaneously straightening the legs and powering upwards with their arms.

Equipment

Lifting takes place on a 4x4m wooden platform coated with a non-slip surface. The disc weights, which are fastened in place with a 2.5kg collar at each end, are colour-coded from black (2.5kg) to red (25kg). Competitors wear one-piece leotards, with or without T-shirts underneath. They are allowed to wear support beltsgloves, knee bandages and caps. Lifters are allowed to chalk their hands to improve their grips and tend to do so copiously.They are also permitted to use ammonium carbonate smelling salts to render themselves suitably pugnacious.

(Image: Rex Features)

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