The atmosphere shifted at the Salt Place in Salt Lake City on Sunday afternoon as competition moved from the USA Weightlifting National Championships to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
The men were up first, facing an energetic crowd that was eager to support them on their road to Rio. Through international competition, the men's team has not yet qualified to compete in the Olympics. Today’s results determined the eight lifters who are headed to the Pan American Championships in June. It is there where Team USA will fight to earn an Olympic berth.
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Pyrros Dimas, a retired Greek weightlifter, and International Weightlifting Federation’s Moira Lassen conducted introductions. Chants of “USA” echoed through the ballroom as spectators waited for the lifters to take the stage.
CJ Cummings (Beaufort, S.C.) and Alex Lee (Chandler, Ariz.) opened the competition, both competing at 69kg. At only fifteen years, Cummings is the youngest athlete in the Trials. After two successful snatches at 125kg and 130kg, he attempted to set a new youth and junior American record at 135kg. He got the bar overhead and stood up but did not fully press out for a successful rep. Lee hit 135kg on his second attempt and chose not to take his last attempt.
During the clean and jerk portion, Cummings made 163kg on his first attempt. He successfully cleaned 170kg and 178kg in his second and third attempts, but did not complete the jerk. Lee followed Cummings and got the crowd on its feet by setting a new American record at 177kg for the category clean and jerk.
Travis Cooper (Tyrone, Ga.) and Leo Hernandez (Miami, Fla.) both lifted at 77kg. Cooper topped Hernandez by 6kg in the total. He snatched 145kg and made 181kg in the clean and jerk – both on the second attempt. Hernandez matched Cooper’s snatch but did not successfully complete his clean and jerk attempt at 181kg.
At 85kg, James Tatum (Hampstead, N.C.) went two for three in both the snatch and clean and jerk. He totaled at 341kg with a 156kg snatch and 185kg clean and jerk.
The competition was close in the 94kg category with two-time Olympian Kendrick Farris, Colin Burns (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Norik Vardanian (Colorado Springs, Colo.).
Vardanian breezed through 165kg and 169kg in his first two snatch attempts; then, appearing just as calm and collected, he threw 172kg overhead to set a new American record in the category snatch. Both Farris and Burns successfully snatched 168kg.
In the clean and jerk, Vardanian made 198kg and then broke his own American record in the category total with a 202kg clean and jerk. Farris made his first attempt at 201kg but did not complete 204kg on his second attempt. The crowd was on the edge of their seats for the third attempt, before which Vardanian and Farris both increased their weight several times to finally settle at 209kg. Vardanian successfully cleaned the bar but failed to complete the jerk. Farris followed and successfully completed the lift to overtake Vardanian’s record and set a new American record in the total at 377kg.
Wesley Kitts (Knoxville, Tenn.), lifting at 105kg, had a strong showing. Kitts totaled at 370kg with a 170kg snatch and 200kg clean and jerk. He attempted a new record in the snatch at 174kg, but did not complete the lift.
Donovan Ford (Sacramento, Calif.) closely trailed Kitts. While his snatch was 8kg lower than Kitts, Ford made his final clean and jerk attempt of 206kg. His total of 368kg was just two kilos less than Kitts.
105+kg Caine Wilkes (Chesapeake, Va.), also known as “The Dragon”, closed out the men’s session. He made his first snatch attempt at 175kg but did not complete the final two attempts. In the clean and jerk, he made 221kg and 229kg before missing his final attempt at 235kg. Wilkes totaled at 404kg, in a 3 for 6 performance.
The eight men that will travel to Pan American Championships are Farris, Vardanian, Lee, Wilkes, Tatum, Kitts, Cooper, and Ford. Burns placed fifth overall; however, he does not qualify for the team as he is the third lifter in the 94kg category.
These lifters have a quick turnaround, as competition starts in Colombia on June 5. Recovery and preparation will be crucial this month as they join together to earn a ticket to Rio. The team needs to place seventh or higher at the Pan American Championships to earn one Olympic berth.
New American Records