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Top weightlifting stories to watch in Rio

Top weightlifting stories to watch in Rio

Here are five big weightlifting stories to keep an eye on at the Rio Games

The weightlifting competitions at the Rio Games will feature dozens of storylines, but these five are the most exciting. 

  • Could the United States earn a medal?

Morghan King qualifies for Rio

Morghan King will compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Credit: Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

The United States will have four weightlifters at the 2016 Rio Olympics, each in a separate weight class: 48kg (105 lbs) Morghan King, 75kg (165 lbs) Jenny Arthur, +75kg (165+ lbs) Sarah Robles on the women’s side, and 94kg (207 lbs) Kendrick Farris the sole male representative.

Rio will mark the third Games for Farris, the second for Robles, and the Olympic debuts for Arthur and King. At the 2015 World Championships, Robles finished sixth in her weight class – the best American performance. However, several of the athletes who lifted more than the American at that tournament have been banned from the Games for doping (test results may also retroactively affect the World Championship standings, as well).

Meet Team USA: Weightlifting

Meet the weightlifters who will represent Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

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The U.S. could snatch its first weightlifting medal since Tara Nott won 48kg gold at Syndey 2000. 

  • Russian weightlifting team banned

London 2012 75kg silver medalist Tatiana Kashirina (RUS). Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Just a week before the Rio Games began, the International Weightlifting Federation banned Russian lifters from competing at the upcoming Olympics following extensive doping scandals. “[The] integrity of the weightlifting sport has been seriously damaged on multiple times and levels by the Russians,” the IWF said in a statement, referring to the positive test results as “extremely shocking and disappointing”. 

Russian weightlifters banned from Rio Olympics for doping

The International Weightlifting Federation said the sport's integrity has been "extremely damaged"

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Russia was set to send eight lifters to the Games. At the London 2012 Olympics, Russian weightlifters earned five silver medals and one bronze – though doping tests, possible disqualifications, and medal reallocation may alter those results.

  • A cleaner Games?

Aleksey Lovchev of Russia has been banned from weightlifting for four years after failing drug tests. Credit: Thomas Shea

The International Weightlifting Federation has been cracking down hard on athletes who use performance enhancing substances: Thirteen medalists from the London 2012 Games will likely be disqualified after positive test results recently surfaced. Dopers often fall through the cracks during major competitions, and aren’t caught (or penalized) until well after the Games conclude. 

With Russian lifters – as well as several big names from various countries – banned, one would hope the Rio Games are cleaner. 

  • Women’s super heavyweight field is up for grabs

The United States' Sarah Robles at the 2016 U.S. National Championships and Weightlifting Olympic Team Trials.

The London 2012 women's super heavyweight gold medalist, Zhou Lulu of China, won't defend her title. Meanwhile, 2015 World Championships super heavyweight gold medalist Tatiana Kashirina of Russia has been banned from the Rio Games after a countrywide doping scandal.

Though they didn't initially appear on the Rio entry list, World Championships silver medalist Meng Suping of China and bronze medalist Kim Kuk-Hyang of North Korea will compete at the upcoming Games. That makes for two medal favorites.

Who is ... Sarah Robles

Learn more about lifter Sarah Robles, who was the highest-ranking American in her sport at the London 2012 Games.

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Still, Russia's weightlifting ban may bode well for the U.S.’ super heavyweight Sarah Robles, who finished sixth in the category at the World Championships.

  • Behdad Salimi seeks to silence competition, defend super heavyweight gold

Super heavyweight weightlifter Olympic gold medalist Behdad Salimi.

Super heavyweight weightlifter Olympic gold medalist Behdad Salimi. Credit: Richard Mackson

Even though London 2012 super heavyweight (+105kg/231 lbs) gold medalist Behdad Salimi of Iran will compete in the category at Rio, his dominance is far from assured. Just before the World Championships last year, Salimi tore his ACL and was forced to spend months in recovery. His injury was so severe, the Iranian wasn’t sure he could even make it to the 2016 Games. 

Whether the tear affects Salimi’s Olympic performance remains to be seen. But the super heavyweight lifter will have plenty of competition gunning for gold, including Georgia’s Lasha Talakhadze and Estonia’s Mart Seim, who won gold and silver at the 2015 World Championships, respectively. 

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