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If qualifying ended today in weightlifting for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Team USA would have seven athletes out of the maximum allotment of eight headed to the Games.
As of the close of the first of three qualification periods on April 30, 2019, these are the athletes who are in Olympic position: CJ Cummings (73 kg.), Wes Kitts (109 kg.) and Caine Wilkes (+109 kg.) on the men’s side and Jourdan Delacruz (55 kg.), Alyssa Ritchey (49 kg.), Olympic medalist Sarah Robles (+87 kg.) and Mattie Rogers (76 kg.) for the women.
That contingent of seven would represent major progress for American weightlifting, after teams of four and three qualified for Rio in 2016 and London in 2012, respectively.
It’s important to remember that one year from now only the top result from each of the three periods, plus the next-best result across all periods, will be used for an athlete’s standing – so there could definitely be some shake-ups. But with six months down and 12 to go, these names provide a snapshot of where things stand and who to watch.
These Team USA athletes have distinguished themselves through their performances at two major competitions: last November’s world championships and last month’s Pan American Weightlifting Championships.
Worlds and Pan Ams are considered gold events for the purposes of qualifying. That means each athlete’s total achieved at those events carries a greater weight (1.1) when calculating the athlete’s ROBI score. Athletes are then ranked by ROBI score, which constitutes the International Weightlifting Federation’s Absolute Rankings. These rankings are the basis for Olympic qualification. Click here for a complete explanation of how athletes make the Olympic weightlifting team.
Team USA actually has more than enough athletes on the women’s side, but no nation can send more than four of each gender. Jessica Lucero (59 kg.) and Mattie Sasser (64 kg.) are also in qualifying position but lose out based on the USA Weightlifting tiebreaking procedure.
(C) CJ Cummings celebrates winnings gold at Junior Pan Am Championships on June 27, 2019 in Havana, Cuba.
2016 Olympian Jenny Arthur and 20-year-old Kate Nye are also in contention. Arthur sits 13th in the women’s 76 kg., which includes three Chinese athletes ranked above her (only one can go to the Games) and Rogers, but there remains the possibility that one or both Americans could change their category in the next period. Nye has one qualifying event under her belt, Pan Ams, where she won gold in the non-Olympic 71 kg. with a 245 kg. total, which would have earned bronze at the 2018 worlds.
Preference goes to athletes who are in the top eight in each weight class, all from eight different countries (“world points”). Then another five per category can qualify based on being the top-ranking athlete in each continent (“continental points”) from a country who doesn’t yet have an athlete qualified at that weight. The four U.S. women currently in qualifying position all do so via world points. Kitts and Wilkes on the men’s side would qualify via continental points.
However they qualify, all Team USA athletes are hoping to hit their stride over the next two qualifying periods to secure a spot. Few are in as good of form as the 18-year-old Cummings, who is fresh off a record-setting performance at Pan Ams. The three-time junior world champion now holds the senior American 73 kg. record of 344 kg. (one of 15 records he owns after that performance), and is not far off the senior world record in clean & jerk. Cummings competed at 69 kg. until the IWF changed the weight categories last year; he has moved up seamlessly.
Kitts was the gold medalist at 109 kg. at Pan Ams, where he set a personal best of 399 kg. Kitts finished 12th overall at worlds with a total of 390. Wilkes was the gold medalist at +109 kg. at Pan Ams. At the world championships, he totaled 400 kg. for the first time at worlds; his Pan Ams total was 401.
One athlete missing from this list who is likely to earn that remaining fourth U.S. men’s spot in Tokyo is Harrison Maurus.
Maurus has only competed at one qualifying event to date – 2018 world championships – so he doesn’t yet meet the requirements, but the 19-year-old finished sixth at last year’s worlds and in 2017 he broke a 20-year U.S. men’s medal drought when he earned bronze in the clean & jerk and total, proving he’s a strong contender for the 2020 Games.
Delacruz made her first world championships appearance in 2018. The holder of six junior American records went on to take gold at Pan Ams. As for Ritchey, she dominated Pan Ams, sweeping her way to the gold medals for the first time in her third consecutive appearance at the competition.
The lone Olympian on this list, 2016 bronze medalist Sarah Robles finished just off the podium at the world championships in fifth after taking gold in 2017. But in the process, she tied Cheryl Haworth’s American record in snatching 128 kg. After tying her own American record in the clean & jerk with 162 kg., she broke Haworth’s total record of 287 kg. with a 290. She then went on to dominate at Pan Ams.
Rogers, holder of three American records, finished third in the clean & jerk at the world championships after moving up to the new 71 kg. weight class. Rogers, competing at less than 70 kilos, finished fifth overall. But with that bronze medal, added to her 69 kg. bronze at the 2017 worlds, she became the first American to win back-to-back world medals since 1999. The Olympic categories around Rogers’ weight are 64 kg. and 76 kg., so she has said she plans to move up to 76 for future competitions. Rogers has already entered one qualifying event, the bronze-level Las Vegas International Open in March, at 76.
The qualifying period that began May 1 runs until Oct. 31. Two more gold qualifying events are coming up for Team USA. The Pan American Junior Championships will take place in Cuba May 20-28, followed by the World Junior Championships in Fiji June 1-8. The main senior competition this summer will be the Pan American Games July 27-30 in Lima, Peru. The Games are a silver-level event for Olympic qualification (weighted at 1.05). The 2019 world championships, again a gold event, run Sept. 18-27 in Thailand.