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USA Weightlifting Athletes Prepare for Key Upcoming Competitions

Feb. 22, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)

For Immediate Release February 22, 2008 USA Weightlifting Athletes Prepare for Key Upcoming Competitions COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.-USA Weightlifting athletes are in the midst of final preparations for two key competitions prior to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Weightlifting. The 2008 USA Weightlifting National Championships will be held February 29 through March 2 in Columbus, Ohio in conjunction with the annual Arnold Sports Festival. The National Championships will be the final domestic event to determine athlete ranking prior to the Olympic Trials. Athletes must be ranked in the overall top 30 for both men and women to qualify for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Weightlifting. The United States women have qualified for the maximum of four competition slots for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The number of 2008 Olympic slots was determined by combined team placement at the 2006 and 2007 World Weightlifting Championships. The 2006 World Weightlifting Championships was held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, September 30-October 7, 2006 and the 2007 World Weightlifting Championships were held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, September 17-26, 2007. The USA women qualified for the maximum of four Olympic slots based on their final placing of eighth as a team from a combined formula of the 2006 and 2007 World Championships. The USA women had originally placed ninth, but their team ranking improved by one position following the recalculation of team points after doping positives were discovered for teams that had originally placed above the United States. Christmas of 2007 was not as kind to the USA men as the grinch (in the form of the International Weightlifting Federation website) visited, taking away the three Olympic slots that the team had thought they had secured with their performances at the 2006 and 2007 World Weightlifting Championships. At the conclusion of the 2007 World Weightlifting Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand the U.S. men sat in position to secure three Olympic slots with a 27th place combined finish, making the U.S. the final country to qualify slots for the Olympic Games. As was the case with the women, teams above the U.S. received doping positives. Despite no one on the U.S. team testing positive, the U.S. men dropped one position in the overall team rankings, thus losing the three Olympic slots they thought they had earned. The shift in order, due to doping positives in teams that finished above Team USA, caused a re-shuffling of points and the final mathematical breakdown moved Chinese Taipei above the United States. The U.S. men will still have the opportunity to qualify two Olympic slots through the Pan American Regional Olympic Qualifying event which is the 2008 Pan American Weightlifting Championships that will be held March 17-22 in Callao, Peru. To qualify for the two Olympic slots, the eight member USA team must finish ranked first or second as a team. For the eight men that will represent the United States at the 2008 Pan American Weightlifting Championships, this event will count as their National Championships in regards to ranking going into the Olympic Trials. A total of 260 athletes will compete in the sport of weightlifting at the 2008 Olympic Games. In accordance with the rules of the International Weightlifting Federation, a country could qualify to enter a maximum of six men and four women for the 2008 Olympic Games. USA Weightlifting will hold the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, May 16-17 in Atlanta, Ga. to determine which athletes will fill the slots it has earned on the women's side and will earn on the men's side. USA Weightlifting's top athletes will be competing in these important upcoming events. Among the top athletes registered to participate in the 2008 USA Weightlifting National Championships are 2000 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time U.S. Olympian (2000 and 2004) Cheryl Haworth (Savannah, Ga./75+kg Weight Class), Natalie Woolfolk (Arnold, Md./Colorado Springs, Colo./63kg Weight Class), Melanie Roach (Bonney Lake, Wash./53kg Weight Class), Emmy Vargas (Panorama City, Calif./Colorado Springs, Colo./75+kg Weight Class), Carissa Gump (Essex Junction, Vt./Colorado Springs, Colo./63kg Weight Class), Doreen Fullhart (Lisco, Neb./Colorado Springs, Colo./75kg Weight Class), Stacey Suyama (Torrance, Calif./48kg Weight Class), Cara Heads (Costa Mesa, Calif./Colorado Springs, Colo./69kg Weight Class), Robin Goad (Atlanta, Ga./53kg Weight Class), Amanda Hubbard (Atlanta, Ga./Chandler, Ariz./58kg Weight Class), Phil"Jake"Johnson (Saint John, Ind./69kg Weight Class), Henry Brower (Bloomingdale, Ga./69kg Weight Class), Innocent Ukpong (Houston, Texas/85kg Weight Class) and Donald Shankle (Wichita Falls, Texas)."Our National Championships is always our golden prize in domestic weightlifting competition,"said Dennis Snethen, Interim Executive Director for USA Weightlifitng."We're very excited this year. With our women's team being in the top eight in the world, securing our maximum number of Olympic slots, all of our women are going to be competing to get in the top ranked positions for the Olympic Trials in Atlanta. On the men's side, we're going to have to go with our top eight men to Peru after the Nationals to qualify our two spots for the Olympic Games. The Pan American Championships in Callao, Peru is going to be one of the most important events ever for USA Weightlifting, as we've never had an Olympic Team without a U.S. man on the platform, so the pressure is on and every lift will be like air to breathe."For the complete start list for the 2008 USA Weightlifting National Championships, please visit www.usaweightlifting.org. USA Weightlifting will send a team of eight top ranked weightlifters to what promises to be a pressure packed event with Olympic qualification on the line at the 2008 Pan American Weightlifting Championships in Callao, Peru, March 17-22. 2008 USA Weightlifting Pan American Championships Men's Team Derrick Johnson (St. Louis, Mo.), 62kg Weight Class Chad Vaughn (Konawa, Okla./Norman, Okla.), 77kg Weight Class Matt Bruce (Baton Rouge, La.), 77kg Weight Class Kendrick Farris (Shreveport, La.), 85kg Weight Class Zach Krych (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 85kg Weight Class Jeff Wittmer (Florissant, Mo.), 94kg Weight Class Casey Burgener (Bonsall, Calif./Colorado Springs, Colo.), 105+kg Weight Class Zach Schluender (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 105+Weight Class Head Coach: Paul Fleschler (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Assistant Coach: Dennis Snethen (St. Joseph, Mo.) Team Leader: Kyle Pierce (Shreveport, La.) For more information, please contact Cecil Bleiker, USOC Manager of NGB Media Services in the USOC Media , Public Relations Division at 719-866-4608. This press release is also available on the USOC's media specific website at www.usocpressbox.org.