Among the candidates for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team are three returning Olympians – each of whom will be aiming for his/her first medal.
The 2010 Pan American champion, Kendrick Farris set three new American records in the 85 kg division with his eighth-place finish in Beijing and reset his own clean and jerk record with his Pan American win in Guatemala last year. The 23-year-old juggles being a father to his four-year-old son, Khalil, with his quest for a world record – a feat that he has come even closer to with practice lifts that are within 8 kg of the clean and jerk world record.
A two-time Olympian in the 77 kg division, Chad Vaughn took a year off after the Beijing Games during which time he and wife, Jodi, became the parents of daughter, Ella. With a renewed passion for the sport, Vaughn returned to competition in 2009 and won his sixth national championship in 2010 and seventh in July 2011. Jodi also returned to national-championship competition this summer, when she won gold in the 53 kg division, as the two became the third husband-wife duo ever to win nationals in the same year.
In 2008, an engaged Natalie Woolfolk placed 12th in the 63 kg division at her first Olympic Games. Later that year, she married her U.S. Olympic Training Center teammate Casey Burgener – a +105kg lifter who placed third at the trials and travelled to Beijing, but was unable to compete in the Games. After taking more than a year off, Natalie returned to the OTC in 2010 to train full-time and placed 12th at the senior world championships. An injured hip and subsequent surgery meant that Natalie was unable to compete in the nationals in July and she won’t be competing at the world championships in November. Natalie continues to rehab from the surgery and is looking to be back in top form at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Weightlifting.
In addition to the returning Olympians, several other athletes have emerged as top candidates for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team.
Former discus thrower Sarah Robles is still new to the sport of weightlifting, but she has remained consistently ranked as the No. 1 female lifter in the United States. A silver medalist at the 2010 Pan American Championships and two-time top-12 finisher at the senior world championships, Robles reset 2000 Olympic medalist Cheryl Haworth’s American collegiate records earlier this year and is looking to follow in Haworth’s footsteps and winning a medal of her own.
Although Amanda Sandoval didn’t begin lifting until a college professor suggested the sport in 2004, the 58 kg athlete has emerged as the No. 2-ranked female lifter on the World Team ranking list.
Competing in the men’s super heavyweight division, 21-year-old Pat Mendes emerged as one of the top-two overall men in the nation this year when he won gold at the national championships. Once dubbed the “Strongest Teen in America” after his amazing lifts became a YouTube phenomenon, Mendes has only been training with Olympic lifts for the past two years, but has hopes of establishing himself on the international scene at the senior world championships in November.
While many athletes take breaks during their careers, Danica Rue shifted her focus to a new type of career when she took time off to attend Harvard Law School after winning six national titles between 2000 and 2005. Rue has since graduated from Harvard, passed the bar and is seeking to qualify for her first U.S. Olympic Team.
One of the best comeback stories of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials is Zach Krych. Twenty-eight-year-old Krych shattered his wrists in a training accident in 2009, but returned in 2010 to win the national title. Krych recently qualified for his first Senior World Championship Team in the 85 kg division.
While these athletes, as well as numerous up-and-comers, are vying to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, the future looks bright with USA Weightlifting athletes who continue to show potential to reach the podium in 2012 and beyond.
- A Beijing Olympian, Kendrick Farris is seeking to become the first U.S. man to break a world record since 1969.
- Vancouver Olympian Katie Uhlaender (skeleton) began weightlifting competitively in 2009 and is seeking to qualify for the 2012 Games in her new sport.
- Farris and his teammate at Louisiana State University Shreveport Hilary Katzenmeier both perform standup comedy and have done routines together. Katzenmeier recently moved down from 58 kg to 53 kg to qualify for her second Senior World Championship Team and is a top prospect for London.
- Seven-time national champion Danica Rue graduated from Harvard Law School after the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Weightlifting and is balancing her full-time job as an attorney with training for London.
- A college discus thrower, Sarah Robles has only been competing in weightlifting for less than four years, but the 23-year-old has become the top female lifter in the United States and is hoping to follow in 2000 Olympic silver medalist Cheryl Haworth’s footsteps as she seeks to become one of the best female heavyweight lifters in the world.
- At least two married couples are vying for Olympic slots. Two-time Olympian Chad Vaughn (77 kg) and his wife Jodi Vaughn (53 kg) each won gold medals at the 2011 National Weightlifting Championships. A former 48 kg lifter, Jodi moved up to 53 kg after giving birth to their daughter, Ella, in 2009. Three-time Senior World Team member Kelly Rexroad-Williams (48 kg) won gold at the nationals in July on the same day as her husband Caleb Williams earned the title in the 69 kg division.
- Kendrick Farris: 85 kg, 2008 Olympian and 2010 Pan American champion – Shreveport, La.
- Sarah Robles: +75 kg, three-time Senior World Team member and 2010 Pan American silver medalist – Mesa, Ariz.
- Chad Vaughn: 77kg, two-time Olympian and 2003 Pan American Games champion – Florence, Texas
- Natalie Burgener: 63 kg, 2008 Olympian and 2005 World Championships seventh-place finisher – Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Pat Mendes: +105 kg, 2011 Senior World Team member – Henderson, Nev.
Qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games began at the 2010 World Championships that were held Sept. 13-27 in Antalya, Turkey. Nations will qualify slots for the 2012 Games based upon the combined results that world championship, along with the 2011 edition, which will be held Nov. 10-17 in Paris, France. Men’s and women’s slots will be allocated separately based upon each nation’s rankings after the results of the 2010 and 2011 World championships are combined. A maximum of six men and four women from each nation with a maximum of two per weight division may qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.
A breakdown of men’s slot allocations are as follows:
NOC’s place in combined team classification Number of athletes per NOC
1st to 6th 6
7th to 12th 5
13th to 18th 4
19th to 24th 3
A breakdown of women’s slot allocations are as follows:
NOC’s place in combined team classification Number of athletes per NOC
1st to 9th 4
10th to 16th 3
17th to 21st 2
Information on the trials process for athletes seeking to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Team will be released at a later date.
- TBD: 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Weightlifting
- Nov. 5-13, 2011: 2011 Senior World Championships – Paris, France