“Even though I am not an athlete, I can still contribute to the greatest stage in the world and I can help make it a better event for other people and be part of that,” said Sally Van de Water, one of the two speakers at the Tokyo 2020 Games and is the first woman ever in the role at any Olympic Games.
Behind every moment of Olympic greatness on the competition platform, there are dozens of people working around the clock to ensure the competition runs smoothly.
Van de Water, of New Jersey, is an IWF Category 1 referee, and is just one of several Americans in Japan right now in support of the Weightlifting competition at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“That’s what’s beautiful about this sport,” Van de Water said. “You can be involved at any level and contribute to make it something great and end up at the Olympics.”
Van de Water is a fixture at USA Weightlifting local and national meets and international competitions for years. Now, she’s making history of her own as the first woman to have the role of Speaker at a Weightlifting competition at the Olympic Games.
“It’s my job to help the athletes have a better time,” Van de Water said. “I say their name in a way that means that they’re somebody special. If they miss a lift, I feel it. If they make a lift, I feel it. I try and help convey that to the audience.”
The Olympic Games requires a massive staff of dedicated people to carry out the competition under strict sets of rules outlined by the International Olympic Committee, Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and International Federations.
“We are trying to create the safest environment possible,” Kris Kimura, the weightlifting training hall manager for the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee for the Olympic & Paralympic Games said.
Kimura, who lives in Southern California, a USA Weightlifting National Coach, IWF Category 1 referee and Club Director of Chikara Weightlifting Club, has been in Tokyo since May working on these Games.
“Working with people from other parts of the world is a highlight,” Kimura said. “The people on our team, from Brazil, Poland, France, Japan. It’s a great group of people to work with.”
Kimura leads a team of volunteers and staff to operate the Olympic training venue to enable Olympians from around the world are prepared for their 3 minutes in the spotlight in the adjacent Olympic competition venue at the Tokyo International Forum.
Corinne Grotenhuis, of Illinois, is the USA’s sole representative of the more than 50 International Technical Officials working the Games. As one of four competition secretaries, Grotenhuis is tasked with ensuring athlete attempt cards and other paperwork is in order at the weigh-in and prior to competition.
“It’s an honor to be here. It’s a dream come true to be here,” Grotenhuis said. “To represent our country is an honor, it’s more exciting that we now have several Americans here to compete. I am ecstatic.”
A pioneer of women’s Weightlifting, both on and off the platform, Grotenhuis is no stranger to representing the stars and stripes internationally. But for this competition, it’s much more special to her and the role she plays in encouraging more girls and women to stay in the sport.
“Don’t give up,” Grotenhuis said. “It’s a fantastic sport for women. We have more opportunities now than we have had before and they should take advantage of it.
Several members of the USA Weightlifting National Office staff are on the ground in Tokyo in support of Team USA and the Olympic Games. In high performance, Senior Director of HIgh Performance and Coaching Education Mike Gattone is the head USA coach along with USAW Technical Director and 3-time Olympic Champion Pyrros Dimas. National Teams Manager Lorene Halford is serving as Team Leader while Marketing and Content Manager Kelsey Kennedy is the Team USA Weightlifting Press Attaché. USAW Senior Director of Engagement, Kevin Farley, is working for the International Weightlifting Federation as Head of Media.