A recent item about Fiji sports reported on the excitement in that nation over the invitation extended by the IOC to their weightlifters for participation in the first Summer Youth Olympic Games that will be conducted in Singapore from August 14 to 26th, 2010. Since I wasn’t familiar with the qualifying process I undertook some research so that the readers would understand the process and what this might mean in terms of the existing world order of weightlifting.
Next year’s event in Singapore will be the inaugural event for the youth of the world. Actually this is much more in keeping with the Baron de Coubertin’s original vision of the modern Olympics. He originally proposed that the event be a coming together of the youth of the world (adult professionals were excluded) in the hope that they might form international friendships that would last as they returned to their respective homelands and took up positions of national leadership. This, he proposed, would lead to the development of greater international diplomacy and world peace.
The Summer Youth Olympics will also serve as a vehicle to keep up worldwide interest in the Olympic movement as there is certainly some waning of interest during the four years between Games. This competition will be restricted to athletes from a very narrow age range, the youngest being those born in 1995 to the oldest who were born in 1992. Each sport may further restrict, but not enlarge that range. The total number of competitors will be 3594 spread throughout 28 already accepted Olympic sports. This is considerably less than the approximately 10,000 athletes that are expected for each Olympic Games.
110 of those slots will be given over to weightlifting. The range of birthdates for those competitors will extend from January 1, 1993 to December 31, 1994 (15 to 17 years of age) 60 of those slots will go to men in the following bodyweight classes: 56 kg., 62 kg. 69 kg. 77 kg., 85 kg. and +85 Kg. The remaining 50 will be filled by women competing in the following bodyweight classes: 48 kg., 53 kg., 58 kg. 63 kg. and +63 kg. This averages out to 10 competitors per class and should make for a quality competition.
The first qualifying event will be the 2009 Youth World Championships, a weightlifting only event scheduled to be conducted every year in which the Youth Olympics are not conducted. Although athletes in the 13-17 year age range will be allowed to compete, only 16 and 17-year-olds will be allowed to proceed on to the Youth Olympics.
In the men’s category at the Youth World Championships (YWC), the top 9 teams (National Olympic Committees–NOC) will be allowed to send 2 males each for a total of 18. 10th through 16th place teams can send one athlete each for a total of 7. This makes up a total of 25 of the 60 projected slots. Of the teams that do not qualify athletes at the Youth World Championships, they may compete at 5 continental qualifying events. The top five ranking NOC’s at the European qualifying event will each get to send 1 male. Asia will also be able to qualify 5, while the Pan American, Africa and Oceania events will qualify 4 each making the total 22, which when added to the 25 from the YWC totals 47. The host nation (Singapore) may qualify one male athlete if it has not done so at the two aforementioned events. This is a total of 48. The remaining 12 to 13 slots will be filled by a prioritizing process established by the IWF.
In the women’s category at the YWC, the top seven teams will send 2 females each for a total of 14, and 8th through 15th will send 1 each for a total of 8. This will add up to 22 competitors of the originally projected 50. The same process will be in place at the Continental qualifying events with the following numbers of top ranking NOC’s being able to send one athlete each: Europe (4), Asia (4), Pan-American (3), Africa (3), and Oceania (3). This totals 17 which when added to 22 equals 39. Singapore may send one female if it has not previously qualified an athlete. The remaining 11 to 12 slots will be filled by the same prioritizing process of the IWF.
This selection process looks like a sound one that will allow for a large number of countries to enter athletes in the weightlifting competition. It will require that some nations expand their sports budget as participation definitely raises the prestige of the sport and many nations will want to maintain a presence. Travel expenses to the continental qualifying events will be a factor, not to mention coaching salaries, athlete stipends and doping control costs are going to force some re-thinking of budgets for many national governments over the next few years. It may well, however, continue to raise interest in the sport and that would be a benefit for the followers and practitioners all over the planet.