USA Weightlifting Features Inspiring the Next G...

Inspiring the Next Generation

By Kevin Farley | Aug. 09, 2016, 2:34 p.m. (ET)

The Olympic Games are a special time for athletes, officials and all fans of sport. But for two American women, the Games helped define their Weightlifting careers. 

The sport of Weightlifting is older than the Games itself. For millennia, humans have faced off to see who could lift the most. Whether stone, sand or rubberized steel plates; humanity's quest to lift big is never ending. 

At the Games of the I Olympiad, Launceston Elliot (GBR) and Viggo Jensen (DEN) won the inaugural Weightlifting events in 1896 in Athens, Greece. 

104 years later at the Games of the XXVII Olympiad in Sydney, an American woman made Olympic history and re-wrote the Weightlifting record books forever. 

Tara Nott Cunningham was the first woman ever to be crowned an Olympic champion in Weightlifting.

"It was an honor for me to compete on the Olympic platform and be 1 of 4 women to represent the USA in the debut of women's Weightlifting in the Olympics," Cunningham told USA Weightlifting. "During the Sydney competition I wasn't thinking about much while I was competing, but after I couldn't help but think about all the women who paved the path for me and was so grateful for the opportunity."

Tara Nott Cunningham in Sydney with her 2000 Gold Medal (Photo: Accent Photo Imaging/Crawford Family U.S. Olympic Archives)

A month before the 2000 Games in Sydney, Cunningham made history back at home-- she set three American records in the 48kg weight category. At the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials in New Orleans, Louisiana, Cunningham broke the snatch record with an 82.5kg lift, the clean and jerk record with a 102.5kg lift and set the total weight record at 185kg. She matched her record 82.5kg snatch at the Sydney Games.

The record in the snatch record stood for 16 years until a woman from Washington state broke it on the world's largest stage. On Saturday, August 6, 2016, Morghan King successfully lifted 83kg at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, breaking Cunningham's record.

"That's unreal," King told USA Weightlifting shortly after breaking the record. "Tara Nott Cunningham, who held that record that's lasted for 16's pretty special. To just be by somebody that won the gold in the 2000 Olympics is really, really something very cool to me and very dear to my heart."

King's coach, Dean Kruse, understood the gravity of breaking Cunningham's record.

"Tara Nott Cunningham, the gold-medal performance she put on in 2000 has stood for 16 years, so to come here and do it at the Olympics is fantastic," Kruse said to USA Weightlifting.

Morghan King reacts after breaking Tara Nott Cunningham's American Record with 83kg snatch. (Photo: IWF/Steve Galvan)

King came up just short in sweeping the American records. Had she completed her 103kg clean and jerk attempt in Rio, King would have taken the records for clean and jerk and total weight. For now, those records still belong to Cunningham.

"Records are standards to reach for and are meant to be broken.  It is fun to think that my performance 16 years ago motivated Morghan in Rio," Cunningham said. "I am excited for Morghan and USA Weightlifting."

For King and Cunningham, they hope their Olympic successes will fuel the dreams of future athletes.

"I hope we are both an inspiration to young lifters on what is possible and that it helps push the next generation to new levels," Cunningham said.