Only eight months have passed since the Olympic Games ended in Tokyo – and there are a whopping 27 months until the next edition – but weightlifters across the globe are already plotting their paths to Paris.
The International Olympic Committee published the sport’s qualification system for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 this week, which was drafted in late 2021 by the International Weightlifting Federation.
The process has been simplified from the one used for the 2020 Games, but there are still some nuances to understand. Below is an explanation of how weightlifters can earn their spots at the Olympics.
What Is The ‘Elevator Speech’ Version Of Olympic Qualification?
Here’s the simplest breakdown:
Weightlifting will have five men’s bodyweight categories and five women’s bodyweight categories (10 events) at the Games. With 120 total athlete quotas available, that means there will be 12 athletes entered in each event. The Olympic weight classes – and schedule – were announced earlier this month.
There are four methods that will determine the field for France: Olympic Qualification Ranking/OQR (100 athletes), continental representation (10), host country quota places (4), universality places (6).
OQR is a list, by Olympic weight class, ranking athletes by their single highest total earned at any of seven specified competitions that take place between the fall of 2022 and spring of 2024. Only one athlete per country (the one with the highest total) will appear in each ranking.
Since 10 (of 12) athletes per event will earn their spot this way, the most direct way to the Olympics is to lift one of the top 10 totals seen in an Olympic weight category during that window – and do so at one of those seven events, while having the top total of your compatriots.
How Many Athletes Can Each Country Send?
Nations may qualify no more than:
- one athlete per event
- three athletes per gender
- six total athletes
This differs from the maximum eight-athlete team (four per gender) for the Tokyo 2020 Games, which was seen only by China and the United States.
Are There Competitions Where Athletes Must Compete In Order To Qualify?
Yes, but the word is ‘participate’ in this case. Participating is defined as attending, successfully weighing in and taking part in athlete introductions.
Of the seven competitions being used for the OQR, athletes who earn their spot in Paris through that method or through continental representation must participate in five.
Said athletes must participate in both these events:
- 2023 IWF World Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Q4 2023)
- 2024 IWF World Cup (Q2 2024)
And they must also participate in at least three of these five:
- 2022 IWF World Championships (Q4 2022)
- 2023 Continental Championships or Continental Games (to be determined which of these two will be used per region)
- 2023 IWF Grand Prix I (Q2-Q3 2023)
- 2023 IWF Grand Prix II (Q3-Q4 2023)
- 2024 Continental Championships (Q1-2 2024)
The OQR window is technically from Aug. 1, 2022, through April 28, 2024. The IWF will publish the first OQR on its website following the 2022 World Championships and the final one on May 24, 2024.
What About Totals Achieved In Non-Olympic Classes?
While there are five Olympic events per gender, most IWF competitions will continue to offer all 10 bodyweight categories per gender.
For the purpose of the OQR, a total achieved in a non-Olympic category will be counted toward the next highest Olympic category. To be more specific, the Olympic events listed below could include totals achieved in the IWF events shown next to them in parentheses:
61kg (55kg, 61kg)
73kg (67kg, 73kg)
89kg (81kg, 89kg)
102kg (96kg, 102kg)
+102kg (109kg, +109kg)
49kg (45kg, 49kg)
59kg (55kg, 59kg)
71kg (64kg, 71kg)
81kg (76kg, 81kg)
+81kg (87kg, +87kg)
What Happens In The Case Of A Tie?
If two athletes from different nations record the same total for the same Olympic event, the athlete who achieved the total first – whether at an earlier competition or by a matter of minutes at the same competition – is given the higher ranking.
If that happens in the case of two athletes from the same country, only the athlete who recorded that total first will appear on the OQR.
What If A Country Qualifies More Than Three Men’s/Women’s Athletes?
If, for example, a nation has women in the top 10 of the OQR in four different weight categories, it is up to that nation which quotas it accepts. The spot that is declined will go to the next highest athlete in that OQR from a country that has not yet used its maximum three spots for that gender.
The USA Weightlifting High Performance Division is currently writing its 2024 Olympic athlete selection procedures, which will include information on how the U.S. would make such a determination.
The USA Weightlifting selection procedures for the seven competitions that count toward the OQR are also being rewritten and will be published at the Selection Procedures page of USAWeightlifting.org once available.
Can An Athlete Appear In More Than One OQR?
Yes, but given the large gap between Olympic bodyweight categories this time around (with fewer Olympic weightlifting events than in Tokyo), that would be rare.
If it does happen, and the athlete makes the top 10 in more than one ranking list, that athlete’s country must tell the IWF which event the athlete will compete in by May 10, 2024. The ranking position that has been freed up will be given to the next eligible athlete on that OQR.
How Does Continental Representation Work?
There are five continental federations recognized in the Olympic movement: Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, Pan America. The goal is that as many of these continents as possible will be represented in each Olympic event.
If a bodyweight category does not have all five continents represented among the top 10 in the OQR, then the next highest-ranked athlete from a country within the continent that is not yet represented will be granted an Olympic quota. If more than one continent is not represented in the top 10 in an OQR, then the next highest-ranked athlete from a country within any of the unrepresented continents will be added to the Olympic field.
There are 10 continental representation spots available and, for the most part, that is how each Olympic event will reach its 11th athlete.
What About Host Country Quotas?
As the country hosting the Olympic Games, France is guaranteed four Olympic weightlifters – two per gender.
France may of course also earn additional spots through the OQR, the same as any other nation. If it qualifies less than two men and/or two women, France can add eligible athletes of its choosing.
Athletes given host country spots must have participated in both the 2023 World Championships and 2024 IWF World Cup, plus at least two of these five competitions: 2022 IWF World Championships (Q4 2022), 2023 Continental Championships or Continental Games (to be determined which of these two will be used per region), 2023 IWF Grand Prix I (Q2-Q3 2023), 2023 IWF Grand Prix II (Q3-Q4 2023), 2024 Continental Championships (Q1-2 2024).
Unused host country quotas will be reallocated to the next highest-ranked eligible athlete in the OQR.
Universality quota spots are similar to continental representation in that they help ensure additional representation from a wider variety of countries and continents throughout all sports at the Olympic Games. The biggest difference is that universality places are typically intended for countries that send a smaller delegation to the Olympics.
For the weightlifting competition in Tokyo, these spots went to athletes from American Samoa, Malta, Nauru, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Tonga.
For Paris, three universality spots per gender are available in weightlifting. Countries will submit their requests for universality places between Oct. 1, 2023, and Jan. 15, 2024. Athletes who fill the universality quotas must have competed in any two of the seven OQR competitions listed above.
Are There Age Restrictions?
In line with IWF rules for senior-level athletes, those in the Olympic field must be born on or before Dec. 31, 2009, meaning that in 2024 they are 15 in weightlifting years (i.e. turn that age by the end of the year).
Because athletes are required to compete in at least three 2023 senior competitions, realistically this means the minimum age for a weightlifter in Paris will be 16 (in weightlifting years). There is no maximum age restriction.
What Does Team USA Think?
Below are quotes from a handful of the top-performing U.S. athletes about the 2024 Olympic qualification system and their own journeys to hopefully represent Team USA in Paris.
“I definitely have a lot of mixed emotions going into this quad. I'm 100% intentionally trying to qualify, which wasn't the case last time, so there's some more pressure and focus. The qualifying system feels much fairer and more straightforward this time, which is a relief, and I of course love that my natural weight class is included. That being said, the specific competition requirements make this quad much more competitive without the option to attend the former silver and bronze events that counted for qualification. On top of that, the reduced weight classes, mixed with mine being right in the middle, means qualifying for those competitions is going to be fiercely competitive. There hasn't been a lot of pressure the past year or two and I've definitely stagnated, so hopefully this sharp increase in competition helps fuel my progress again.
“Coming into it with a world champion title gives me confidence, but the total I earned that title with isn't going to cut it, so there's no relaxing anymore. I feel really close and connected with a lot of Team USA athletes much more than I did as a rookie last quad, so I'm super excited to hopefully compete alongside some really great friends and see everyone pushing to be their best and supporting each other.”
--Meredith Alwine (Virginia Beach, Va.), 2021 world and Pan American champion at 71kg
“The new qualification system seems a lot less complex than the prior one. The top lifters in the top events get to go to the Olympics. After having to wait five years for my first Olympics, it’s exciting to know what the path forward looks like as I try to earn another opportunity to represent Team USA. I am looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
--CJ Cummings (Beaufort, S.C.), 2020 Olympian at 73kg; youngest U.S. Olympic weightlifter in 21 years; current American record holder at 73kg
“I’m looking forward to my first Olympic quad and trying to qualify with the current group of American weightlifters, which I think is the most competitive we’ve ever had. I’m honored to even be considered as a part of those that have a chance to qualify.”
--Hampton Morris (Marietta, Ga.), 2021 youth world and senior Pan American champion; current youth world and senior American record holder at 61kg
“I’m excited for my third try at an Olympic team and feel more prepared for this Olympic quad than any of the previous ones, so I’m ready to battle.”
--Mattie Rogers (Geneva, Fla.), 2016 Olympic alternate; 2020 Olympian at 87kg; four-time world medalist from 2017-2021; current American record holder at 81kg
“I was super excited to see the 2024 Olympic qualifications come out this past week. It was an immediate reminder of the sacrifices that I have made, especially in the past year. I am ready to give it all I've got to be in the mix of some of the best weightlifters in the world, and try to represent the United States at the Paris Olympics. I like to know what the plan is moving forward – in my lifts and in my training, so these qualifications being released and allowing my coach and I to formulate a plan is a great feeling!”
--Mary Theisen-Lappen (Eau Claire, Wis.), 2021 Pan American champion at +87kg; current clean & jerk American record holder at +87kg
Are There Doping-Related Restrictions For Specific Countries This Time?
Maybe, maybe not. There are a lengthy set of rules in the qualification system and in the IWF Anti-Doping Rules that govern this and grant an independent panel the ability to withdraw some or all of a country’s quotas, depending on the violations.
Two rules are clear:
1) Should athletes or people affiliated with a specific country violate three or more IWF/anti-doping organization rules of this nature between July 23, 2021, and July 25, 2024, that result in periods of ineligibility of four years or more, that country will lose all of its quotas.
2) Should athletes or people affiliated with a specific country violate two or more IWF/anti-doping organization rules of this nature during the Olympic Games Paris 2024, that result in periods of ineligibility of four years or more, that country will automatically be prevented from entering, recommending or proposing athletes or other official participants in the next Olympic Games.
Great! USA Weightlifting Senior Director of Sport Performance & Coaching Education Mike Gattone and National Teams Director Lorene Halford will be hosting a Zoom session open to members, as well as a public Instagram Live through @usa_weightlifting, to discuss the Olympic qualification system. Details to follow. Please email specific questions, or areas of qualification you would like to hear more about, to firstname.lastname@example.org in advance.