Rio de Janeiro, 2016
The Rio Games had their share of thrills on the platform, most notably in the men’s 77kg (170 lbs) competition. Defending Olympic champion Lu Xiaojun of China set an early world record with a snatch of 177kg (390 lbs), and seemed sure to repeat as gold medalist. But Kazakstan’s Nijat Rahimov had other plans, shattering the clean and jerk world record by four kilos to erase Lu’s lead and tie on total weight. Rahimov was awarded gold as the lighter lifter in a rule that has since been changed.
Georgian Lasha Talakhadze capitalized when, in the men’s +105kg (+231 lbs) competition, Iranian defending gold medalist Behdad Salimi failed to follow up his world record snatch lift with a valid lift in the clean and jerk. Talakhadze needed only two attempts at the clean and jerk to guarantee himself the gold, but still attempted – and completed – his third lift, setting a dramatic world record in overall weight.
In the women’s +75kg (+165 lbs) competition, Sarah Robles became the first American Olympic weightlifting medalist in 16 years when she lifted 286 total kilos (631 lbs) for bronze.
In an Olympics that featured eight new world records, China dominated with seven overall medals, including five golds. Perhaps the country's most notable lifter was super heavyweight (75+kg/165+ lbs) Zhou Lulu, who achieved an Olympic record 187.0kg (412 lbs) clean & jerk and a world record 333.0kg (734 lbs) total lift, smashing her own 2011 World Championship world record total of 328.0kg (723 lbs).
Iran's super heavyweight (+105kg/+231 lbs) Behdad Salimi edged out compatriot Sajjad Anoushiravani for gold with a 455.0kg (1003 lbs) total. Beijing super heavyweight gold medalist Matthias Steiner injured himself while lifting the snatch by inadvertently hitting his neck with the barbell. Though he was not seriously injured, Steiner withdrew from competition.
The super heavyweight (105+kg/231+ lbs) class came down to the final lift in Beijing. Germany'saa, 13 months after the tragic death of his wife, Susann, in a car accident, lifted a clean and jerk of 258kg (568 lbs) for the most emotional of victories. He held a picture of Susann as he accepted the gold medal on the podium. Steinera narrowly defeated Russia's Evgeni Chigishev, who thought he had secured victory after a clean & jerk of 250kg (551 lbs). World champion Viktors Scerbatihs of Latvia had to settle for bronze. In the 105kg class, World champion Andrei Aramnau of Belarus broke three world records en route to gold.
Liu Chunhong broke three world records in the women's 69kg (152 lbs) division (snatch, clean & jerk and total weight). She floored the competition, lifting a total of 286kg (630 lbs). World champion Oxana Slivenko of Russia was a distant second, lifting a total of 255kg (562 lbs). China claimed four of the seven women's gold medals in weightlifting, while claiming four golds and one silver in men's weightlifting.
Four years after Naim Suleymanoglu's failed attempt at a fourth straight Olympic gold medal, Greece's Pyrros Dimas took his crack at the elusive feat before a packed home crowd at Nikaia Olympic Weightlifting Hall. Competing in the men's 85kg (187 lbs) division, Dimas missed his final two lifts in the clean and jerk and wound up earning bronze behind George Asanidze of Georgia and Andrei Rybakov of Belarus. After Dimas attempted and failed at 205.0kg (452 lbs), he tried at 207.5kg (457 lbs) in an effort to win gold, but missed that attempt, too. Dimas did join Ronny Weller of Germany and Norbert Schemansky of the United States as the only weightlifters to win four Olympic medals.
The Games were the first to include women's weightlifting, and the addition provided emerging China with another bounty of medals. All four Chinese lifters won gold, including super heavyweight (75+kg/165+ lbs) Ding Meiyuan. Finishing third in Ding's class was 17-year-old Cheryl Haworth of Savannah, Georgia. Also at these Games, Colombia earned its first Olympic gold when Maria Isabel Urrutia won the 75kg (165 lbs) title.
Turkish dynamo Naim Suleymanoglu retired after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Then, nine months prior to Sydney, Pocket Hercules decided to pursue an unprecedented fourth gold medal. Suleymanoglu, who competed in the 62kg (137 lbs) division, missed badly in his first two snatch attempts of 145kg (320 lbs). With his third try, he raised the bar to about eye level, but couldn't finish the lift. He dropped the bar to the floor and quickly walked away, bombing out of his final Olympics.
Greece's Pyrros Dimas won the 85kg (187 lbs) division for a third time, matching Turkish legend Naim Suleymanoglu's Olympic record for career golds. Dimas almost bombed out in the snatch, but salvaged himself with a successful third lift. All three medalists finished with the same total, but Dimas won because he had the lowest body weight. One day later, the Greek party continued as Dimas' teammate Kakhi Kakhiasvili claimed his third career gold by taking the 94kg (207 lbs) title -- also via the bodyweight tie-breaker rule.
The 64kg (141 lbs) competition began with Turkey's two-time defending champion Naim Suleymanoglu taking the lead over his Greek rival Valerios Leonidis. Turkey and Greece have a long history of conflict, and each lifter's supporters took positions at opposite sides of the venue, exchanging taunts. The two athletes went lift-for-lift for two hours until Leonidis failed on his last attempt, making Suleymanoglu the first to win three consecutive Olympic weightlifting titles. The emotional Turk and Greek rooters rose as one to give the two athletes a standing ovation.
The Games marked the Olympic debut of Naim "Pocket Hercules" Suleymanoglu, a 5-foot fireplug who broke six world records in the 60kg (132 lbs) division and gave Turkey its first gold in two decades. He repeated as Olympic champion in 1992 and 1996, but Suleymanoglu's story transcended his triumphs. In 1986, fleeing the persecution of ethnic Turks in his native Bulgaria, Suleymanoglu, a Muslim, defected to Turkey. Olympic rules required an athlete changing nationality to wait three years before competing for his new country, unless his former country gave permission. Bulgaria agreed to the waiver when the Turkish government agreed to give it $1 million and Suleymanoglu promised to stop criticizing Bulgarian policy.
Los Angeles, 1984
Despite the effort of Takashi Ichiba, a 56kg (123 lbs) competitor who performed a backflip before each lift, the weightlifting competition was dulled by the Soviet-led boycott. Missing from the competition were all 10 world champions, 29 of the 30 previous world championship medalists and 94 of the world's top 100-ranked lifters.
Soviet super heavyweight Vasily Alexeyev was a 330-pounder whose tights barely contained a massive gut reportedly padded by 26 fried eggs during one particularly big breakfast in Munich. Two years before the 1972 Games, Alexeyev broke the 500-pound barrier in the clean and jerk. Unbeaten from 1970 to 1978, he won his first Olympic gold medal in Munich by the vast margin of 66 pounds. He added another gold in Montreal. Between 1970 and 1977, Alexeyev set 80 world records -- bit by bit, reportedly because he received financial rewards from the Soviet government for each mark he set.
Mexico City, 1968
The Soviet Union's flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony, defending super heavyweight champion Leonid Zhabotinsky stunned the crowd by brandishing the hammer and sickle one-handed -- child's play for the so-called "World's Strongest Man." The nearly 360-pound Zhabotinsky brought an ego to match his girth. So confident of victory and so contemptuous of his competitors, he skipped his final two jerk attempts in winning gold by 38.5 lbs.
Before his lifts in the 56kg (123lbs) division, Mohammad Nassiri of Iran prayed for 30 seconds, then faced the bar and yelled "Ya Ali" to honor Shia Islam leader Iman Ali. Late in the competition, Nassiri needed to clean and jerk a world record 150kg (330.5 lbs) to beat Hungary's Imre Foldi. After roaring "Ya Ali" four times - three before the attempt and once during -- Nassiri completed a successful lift to claim gold.
Trailing Yuri Vlasov early in the final, clean and jerk portion of the super heavyweight competition, Leonid Zhabotinsky conceded defeat to his fellow Soviet. And after Zhabotinsky, on his second attempt, came nowhere near lifting the world-record amount of 217.5kg (480 lbs), Vlasov assumed victory was his and didn't bother attempting the record himself. After Vlasov left the platform, Zhabotinsky returned for his final attempt and easily hoisted it, snatching the gold from his furious compatriot. Vlasov later wrote, "... I had always revered the purity, the impartiality of contests of strength. That night, I understood that there is a kind of strength that has nothing to do with justice."
Despite an hour of running and sweating, Charles Vinci of the United States found himself seven ounces too heavy with 15 minutes left in the weigh-in for the 56kg (123 lbs) division. But after cutting some of his hair, the scales settled in Vinci's favor, and he went on to win the first of two straight golds.
American Paul Anderson overcame strep throat to win the super heavyweight title. He and Argentina's Humberto Selvetti tied, but Anderson was given the victory because he was 13 pounds lighter than Selvetti - a curious twist, since Anderson lost 60 pounds training for the Games yet still weighed in at more than 300 pounds.
Among the Olympic champions was Tommy Kono, a Japanese-American who developed into a world-class weightlifter while interned at a relocation camp in California during World War II. Competing in Helsinki at 67.5kg (149 lbs), Kono prevailed by 27.5 lbs to claim his first Olympic medal. The versatile Kono later won two more medals: gold at 82.5kg/182 lbs (1956) and silver at 75kg/165.25 lbs (1960).
American Joe Di Pietro stood less than five feet tall, and his arms were so short he could barely extend them enough to lift the bar over his head. But, he took gold in the bantamweight class (56kg/123 lbs) with a world-record lift of 307.5kg (678 lbs).
The silver medalist at 82.5kg (182 lbs) was American Harold Sakata, who later became a professional wrestler before turning to acting. His most famous role was the taciturn, hat-hurling Oddjob in the James Bond film "Goldfinger".
In the 67.5kg (149 lbs) division, Egypt's Anwar Mohammed Mesbah and Austria's Robert Fein each posted world record totals of 342.5kg (755 lbs). Mesbah weighed 3.5 ounces less than Fein, and thus was ranked ahead of him, as per tiebreaker protocol. But an Austrian protest was upheld, and both men were awarded gold medals.
Los Angeles, 1932
Frenchman Louis Hostin was so certain he would prevail in the 82.5kg (182 lbs) division that he found time to exchange a few laughs with the referee during competition. All business with the bar, Hostin set Olympic records across the board in winning gold. Hostin, a silver medalist in 1928, repeated as champion in 1936.
The weightlifting winners included Franz Andrysek of Austria in the 60kg (132 lbs) division and Germany's Hans Haas at 67.5kg (149 lbs). Also triumphant was El Sayed Nosseir, an Egyptian whose pre-lift routine included looking skyward and asking aloud for Allah's support.
The Paris competition was the last to feature one-hand lifts. Two others were added -- two-hand press and two-hand jerk -- for a total of five lifts. The host nation's Charles Rigoulot, at age 20, won gold in the 82.5kg (182 lbs) division. He later gained fame behind the wheel of a car for his accomplishments in auto racing and for an incident during World War II, where he was imprisoned for hitting a Nazi officer.
The program featured five different weight classes, with three different lifts performed: one-hand snatch, one-hand jerk and two-hand jerk. Rules of the time required each lifter to perform the one-hand jerk with whichever arm is not used in the one-arm snatch. Victors were from France (2), Belgium, Estonia and Italy. When an Italian and a Swede tied for second in the 75kg (165 lbs) division, they drew lots to determine who got silver -- the Italian won.
St. Louis, 1904
In addition to the two-hand lift, an all-around dumbbell competition was contested. It consisted of nine different types of lifts -- such as curling and shoulder press -- plus one "original feat" chosen by the lifter. Americans swept the all-around medals, with Milwaukee's Oscar Osthoff winning gold. Osthoff also took silver in the two-hand lift, behind Greece's Perikles Kakousis.
Weightlifting's Olympic debut in Athens saw Great Britain's Launceston Elliot win the one-hand lift event ahead of Denmark's Viggo Jensen. They reversed their rankings in the two-hand lift. Meanwhile, the official report noted that during the competition, Greece's Prince George displayed his "extraordinary muscular strength" in helping a servant move the weights. The Prince, as the story went, "came to his assistance, picked up the heaviest weight, and threw it with the greatest ease to a considerable distance."