The United States has a long history of success in international weightlifting, and during the mid-20th century, America was one of the most successful nations in the sport. American legends like Tommy Kono, Norb Schemansky, Charles Vinci, and Isaac Berger (to name a few) participated in and medaled at multiple consecutive Olympic Games. In fact, Schemansky (whose accomplishments you can read more about here) was the first person to medal in weightlifting in four separate Olympic Games — a feat which he accomplished despite missing the 1956 Games due to injury.
While women’s weightlifting didn’t become an official Olympic sport until 2000, U.S. female lifters also have a long history of success. American Karyn Marshall — who would later become the first woman to clean & jerk 300 pounds in competition — won the heavyweight category at the 1987 Women’s World Weightlifting Championships, the first year the competition was held. At the 2000 Sydney Games, American Tara Nott became the first-ever female Olympic Champion in weightlifting after finishing first overall in the 48kg weight class.
Despite America’s previous success in weightlifting, the past few decades have seen a noticeable and significant dropoff in US performances on weightlifting’s biggest stages. The United States failed to medal in either men’s or women’s categories at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Games. The last American men to medal at the Olympics did so in 1984, the year the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Games.
Below, we’ve listed every Olympic medal in weightlifting the United States has won during the modern Olympic era. With a promising crop of Youth and Junior lifters — and increased visibility, popularity, and membership — the future is looking up for USA Weightlifting and American weightlifters in general. But there’s still plenty of work to do before the country is back to its mid-century form.
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