Inaugural American Open Series Wraps in Grand Rapids

By Kevin Farley | Sept. 10, 2017, 9 a.m. (ET)

Two thousand fifty-six athletes. Three states. Three major events spread over 6 months.

The man behind the madness of this epic expression of Weightlifting? USA Weightlifting Senior Events Manager Pedro Meloni.

“It’s been a crazy year managing so many athletes and so many major events,” Meloni said. “But it’s a good crazy.”

Meloni knows what it's like to organize major events. He served as Weightlifting Sport Manager for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Not only did he have to organize and execute the sport's biggest event of the Olympiad, he had to stay calm under pressure.

"Working the Olympic Games was special but also very difficult," Meloni said. "In the end, I think we carried out a competition that was not only fair for the athletes, but exciting for them and the spectators too. While all of that was going on, IOC President, Thomas Bach, stopped by the venue. An Olympic Champion himself, President Bach took part in some lifting. It was great to see him get involved with the sport."

"Pedro Meloni deserves special praise for an excellent job," honorary IOC member and International Weightlifting Federation President Dr. Tamás Aján told IWF magazine World Weightlifting about Meloni's efforts in Rio. "He and his staff were working hand in hand with the IWF."

Back in the United States, Meloni brought this world-class event preparation to the American Open Series. This weekend's American Open Series 3 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, marks the end of USA Weightlifting’s inaugural American Open Series. It’s three events that leads up to this December’s American Open Final in Anaheim, California.

“The idea behind the series is to allow athletes who might not qualify for a USA Weightlifting National event to get that national event experience,” USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews said. “It also allowed us to hold more events, in more regions of the country, to expand the presence of our sport in the United States.”

The top finishers of each weight category, along with the top youth and Masters lifter, based on the Sinclair and Sinclair-Meltzer-Faber formulas, respectively, qualify for the American Open Final. Athletes can also gain entry to the American Open Final by posting a total that meets—or exceeds—the events qualifying total.

The Series first stop landed in Reno, Nevada in March. There, 587 athletes battled for a spot at the American Open Finals. The American Open Series 2 was held in Miami, following the Pan American Championships. It was the largest turnout of the series with 782 registered athletes. In September, 687 athletes registered for the American Open Series 3 in Grand Rapids.

“We wanted to give the series a different look and feel from our other national events,” Meloni said. “We wanted it to be special and memorable for everyone involved.”

A brainchild of Andrews, the USAW CEO points to Meloni as the key to the success of the series.

“Pedro did a phenomenal job of taking this idea of a Weightlifting competition series and turning it into something special,” Andrews said. “We’re looking forward to see what other things he has up his sleeve as we refine and continue to improve the American Open Series in the coming years.”

The 2018 American Open Series opens in March at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio March 2-5. The second stop is in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania July 26-29. The third stop is in Las Vegas, Nevada September 13-16. It all leads up to the 2018 American Open Final December 6-9 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.