American lifting- map the current and future states

Probably the first time I was asked” aren’t you too old to be lifting” was when I was 15 years old. The last time this was posed to me was at Collegiates when someone remarked ” You’re still doing this.”. Or, maybe, what the persons really meant to ask was, “haven’t you moved on from lifting yet?”.

I think this goes back to a sort of Julliard mentality– that if you’re not a prodigy in your teens or didn’t start lifting in your early teens…just don’t even bother trying. As if all great lifters were like Suleymonoglu, breaking word records at the age of 16.

The truth is, weightlifting is Not a sport like, say , gymnastics, where being under 20 is an advantage (think 2008 Chinese gymnast scandal – its unfair to be competing against a 12yr old?, not in weightlifting). Weightlifters do not even peak until the ages 26 to 30.

Sure, there are countries where most of the national team is under 30. However, their infrastructure is much different. They have the equvalent of sports schools where adolescents or younger can train full time. A country like China or Cuba has a backlog of 21 yr olds waiting to fill the slot of 26 yr olds on the national team.

In a country like America, there are very few athletes who have the privalege to train fulltime, especially, in a sport like weightlifting. We do not have a pipeline of athletes training fulltime from the age of 12, for example. Hence, in our current state, it is not surprising that we will have athletes on our national team over 30. And, further we should not throw away or write-off athletes venturing into lifting that have not hit their peak yet or are still improving.

And such is the American way- that anyone has a chance to take a go at it, to aspire to acheive even the most audacious goals ….

As an observation, unless you grow-up in a community with a strong weightlifting program, particularly in the USA, it may be easier to focus on wieghtlifting in your post-college years — ie you have a car to drive to the gym, perhaps you can afford your own weights, and you no longer have parents and coaches trying to recruit you to other sports…

Again, all the above is based on the current state of weightlifting in the USA. An ideal future state of USA weightifting would include more infrastructure to reign-in adolescent lifters and keep young lifters lifting into their 20’s. But this is a different subject for another post….

Ehhh, when I was on the “under 16 team” every year we got the same trip to the same competition in Canada- not a World’s in Thailand- no wonder I didn’t start training seriously till my 20’s.

4 thoughts on “American lifting- map the current and future states

  1. Gwen Sisto

    Ha! I love Canada. My state borders two Canadian provences.

    Please let me clarify– year after year, the schoolage team was only sent to Canada. That's not a lot of incentive – if you do well, you'll get the same reward as last year.

  2. Barry

    I understand your point about weightlifting maturity. I am 27 and I started lifting 15 months ago. I have always played rugby to a high level and as such my level of conditioning was good going into weightlifting so I could progress reasonably quickly.
    In saying that, each year since I have been 19, my strength, speed, flexibility, muscular balanceand more importantly my health, has continued to improve. I am at my physical peak now; so when people tell me I am too old to ever do anything in weightlifting, I smile, look at their poor posture and their lifestyle and revel in my hard training and my clean living. I love it. It makes no difference that I am 27. As Mae West said, "it ain't the age, it's the mileage."

  3. Gwen Sisto

    Yes, it's an incredibly elitist attitude– that they somehow are helping you and the sport. In reality, many of these "critics" have no training in talent identification…and would probably tell you the same thing if you were 17.

    I encountered more positive attitudes about a lifter's potential, at any age, from experts in countries that typically had pick lifters at young ages vs Western lifting communities with little or no state system.


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