Jan. 1, 2022

 

Hello members, and happy 2022!

 

So, it’s over. 2021 turned out to be arguably just as trying, if not more challenging, than 2020, so here’s hoping 2022 can provide us all, inside and outside of sport, a return to a degree of stability even if we cannot get back to normalcy.

 

What a year! It’s hard to think back on just how much has happened in 2021, and how difficult it was to get through for the weightlifting community, for athletes, for coaches, for gym owners, for Olympians and more.

 

Of course, we should start with the Olympic Games, which we hope we can see in the future here in the U.S. if the IWF will finally follow the path simply laid out by the IOC.

 

We were one of two nations to field a full team at the Olympic Games, which was our goal at the start of this quadrennial. We were told it could not happen, by those even in our own membership, but it did and we proved #itcanbedone. Firstly, a huge congratulations to Jourdan Delacruz, Kate Nye, Mattie Rogers, Sarah Robles, CJ Cummings, Harrison Maurus, Wes Kitts and Caine Wilkes – all of whom will forever be Olympians. The work required, especially with the extra challenge of the delay of the Games, for these athletes can only perhaps be realized for its true level by those who were directly involved. It’s unbelievable what these eight athletes, those who came close to the Games, and their personal coaches did, together with all of the supporting group. Of course, the Games will be highlighted by Kate Nye’s silver medal and Sarah Robles’ bronze medal marking our best Games in decades, but all eight of our Olympians are more than worthy of recognition for their hard work and journeys.

 

We celebrated their success at the Tokyo Strong: Together Gala in August in Colorado Springs, and we hope to see you all at the 2022 Hall of Fame Gala on July 2 in Las Vegas, hosted by the USA Weightlifting Foundation during Nationals Week.

 

We just finished up a good performance at the IWF World Championships, Meredith Alwine (71kg, Team OC) became world champion, joining a select group of individuals to have that title. Olivia Reeves, just 18 years of age, was snatch silver medalist in the same category, and became the youngest U.S. women’s world medalist in 22 years. In doing so, it marked the fourth straight world championship that Team USA has won a medal, the first time we had done so in nearly three decades.

 

So, too, Mattie Rogers made history, continuing “the streak,” and winning silver at the 76kg category. She was already, but stretches her lead as, the most successful U.S. women’s weightlifter of the Olympic era. Mattie’s contributions off of the platform in promoting the sport will always be recognized by me and by USA Weightlifting but likely always be underrated. Simply, Mattie Rogers is an icon of modern American weightlifting.

 

We also completed very recently the first ever Junior Pan American Games, where yet more history was made. Hampton Morris and Olivia Reeves made history carrying the flag in the Opening Ceremony by vote of their fellow athletes. It is the first time that a weightlifting athlete of either gender has carried the flag for the United States in any multisport Games event.

 

Medals were won and championships achieved in every competition we attended in 2021 – at all levels, from youth to the Olympic Games.

 

In America, there has been much work and change continuing to occur. I do want to take just a moment to recognize the outstanding work of our staff here at USA Weightlifting over 2020 and 2021, and thank our membership and volunteer leadership for giving a little bit of grace as we end 2021 in a state of exhaustion having pushed so hard for these last two years. This team of staff are truly passionate about service to our athletes first and foremost and our wider membership community. It’s so pleasing to be able to work with them each and every day.

 

2021 saw, as one expects after an Olympic Games, some turnover of our team. Kevin Farley and Kelsey Kennedy departed our media team, and we welcomed Brandon Penny to our group as a contractor, while Brad Suchorski took up a senior role at USA Lacrosse, welcoming in his stead Alexandra Love who has already begun to make a great positive impact on our organization. Together with these changes, JP Nicoletta took on management of our membership department, while Suzy Sanchez began to oversee our Marketing and Media area. I want to again thank JP and Suzy, in particular for their leadership.

 

We also saw the retirement of our second-longest serving employee, Sandy Bowen, whose jolly and hardworking presence continues to be missed. She was replaced by Andrea Andrews (no relation to me) who joined us from the USOPC’s Audit team as our Director of Finance and Compliance. Andrea oversees a function of the organization that doesn’t rise to the attention of the average member but is a critical “back of house” function. She has already overseen a very large change in our accounting software, and overseen our extremely onerous USOPC audit process. Andrea has set about modernizing our Finance area, and has been taking on the ever-increasing workload of our compliance function. As we enter 2022, I am excited to see how we can further improve our governance through Andrea’s leadership.

 

Working equally as hard has been the USA Weightlifting Board of Directors, our volunteer committees and the leadership of the USA Weightlifting Masters. It has been a trying and heavy workload for all of these groups this year, as well as our volunteer TOs.

 

A special mention too for our International Relations Director, Ursula Garza Papandrea, who has been tirelessly working and fighting towards change in the IWF and for our sport’s Olympic participation at great personal cost as well as Great Britain’s Sarah Davies who has represented the athletes in this way.

 

More recently, we made a notable advance in our governance model by adding an independent to each of our committees, allowing us to add outside expertise to almost every area of USA Weightlifting, which will likely see even further improvements to our NGB over the coming years.

 

We also relaunched the USA Weightlifting Foundation, which now has its own board, featuring an amazing lineup of people who can contribute not only to the Foundation financially and with their expertise but that provide another layer of professionalism to our NGB and more avenues of outreach; these folks come from both the membership and from independent perspectives.

 

A further development for the federation in 2021 was the publication of two different independent reports into USA Weightlifting’s activities, particularly in respect of Diversity & Inclusion.

 

A more difficult subject in 2021 was addressing our Masters Weightlifting governance. Although we got off to the wrong foot with some significant miscommunication and misunderstanding between HQ and the Masters leadership, through conversation, feedback and working together we end 2021 perhaps with a closer relationship than ever before, and in early 2022 will add a Masters-specific role to our group at USA Weightlifting.

 

Our sponsorship portfolio also keeps growing, adding SignsRx, A-1 Awards and most recently Vitargo, but also perhaps more importantly BetterHelp, who have become the supplier to our Athlete Wellness program, which offers resources to our athletes and coaches around the country.

 

Financially, 2021 was a massive challenge, and while we are still in the black across 2020 and 2021, the year 2021 will end in a large deficit budget, an inevitability of running a nonprofit in these times, but driven by coronavirus impacts as well as external one-off investigations.

 

Looking ahead to 2022, we absolutely have to stabilize the organization a bit, taking a step back and just managing what we have rather than aggressively pursuing new projects. This means our operating goals in 2022 look rather more like building on what we have and expanding our organizational capacity rather than building up too many new items. You can view those online, together with our budget.

 

With that said, there is no lack of things to look forward to this year – with the IWF World Championships in the fall and the start of 2024 Olympic qualification, the launch of the Paris Strong 2024 run to the Games, a return of youth and junior camps, a return of in-person camp opportunities for our wider membership, Nationals Week in Las Vegas, the North American Open Series finally gets to Canada, and plenty more.

 

Yours in sport,

Phil Andrews

Phil.Andrews@USAWeightlifting.org