History of weightlifting
Weightlifting dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece, where it provided an easy way to measure strength and power. Greek sculptures depict men lifting stones; Egyptians tombs depict men lifting bags of sand. (Natural objects were later replaced by dumbbells; interestingly, the word is derived from the practice of removing clappers from bells, leaving them silent during lifting.) There is also evidence of Chinese soldiers having to pass lifting tests, according to a 5,000-year-old text. Throughout the Middle Ages, strongmen performed at fairs and festivals, and in the 1800’s, professionals toured with carnivals or vaudeville shows. By the end of the 19th century, however, weightlifting became an official international competition. The first world championships were held in March 1891 in London, featuring seven athletes from six countries. Five years later, at the first modern Olympic Games, weightlifting was one of nine sports to be contested. Unlike today, there were no weight classes and the competition featured one-handed as well as two-handed lifts. In 2004, when Olympic weightlifting returns to Athens, it can be said that weightlifting’s international competitive history spans three centuries. The superpowers of weightlifting, as expected, have changed over the years. At the beginning of the 1900s, Austria, Germany and France found the most success. Later Egypt, then the U.S. reigned. The Soviet Union dominated from 1950s through the ‘80’s, later to be challenged by Bulgaria. In the past few years, however, China has become the nation to beat in many weight classes.
Strongest man on Earth
In weightlifting, the winner of the men’s super heavyweight class often earns one of the greatest titles at the Olympics: strongest man on Earth. At the 2012 London Games, Iran’s Behdad Salimi left with the honor, marking the third time in the past four Games that an Iranian won the event. Germany’s Matthias Steiner stopped this most recent Iranian dominance with a memorable performance at the 2008 Beijing Games. Roughly a year before the Olympics, Steiner’s wife Susann died suddenly in a car accident, and a grieving Steiner lost about 18 pounds. However, he battled his way back into shape and resumed training for the Beijing Games, where he won gold. His memorable medals ceremony provided one of the lasting emotional images of the Games: on the podium he held up a photo of his late wife along with his gold medal.