"There is no wooden platform. Only rolled rubber, stretched over a concrete pad and coated with the thin, obnoxious dust of the Aromas desert," writes Jon Gilson about the Event 6 Snatch competition on Sunday morning at the Games. He continues:
Luminaries with red and white lights are replaced by blue-clad Judges, some qualified, some not, all with hands held high.
The contenders eschew the singlet fashion of the sport; their wooden-soled shoes the only vestige of traditional Olympic weightlifting garb.
Dead silence is a joke, drowned out by a fierce, screaming crowd and the hate music rocketing from the speakers.
The California sun slow cooks the barbells, each resting against a log marked with a number that has no bearing on the task at hand.
Ten minutes. A stack of plates. Power snatch or squat snatch, split or not. Rip it up smoothly, press it out ugly, it doesn't matter. Just get it over your head. Max load wins.
"Go!" slams out of the P.A., and the barbells flash. There are beautiful lifts, and ugly lifts, competitors digging, catching loads that should succumb to gravity, standing to the lion's ovation, the roar of myriad spectators who know the feeling but not the arena.
They sense revolution. There is no polite clapping. This is gladiatorial fervor, surging crowd thumbs down, kill it now.
There is no need to visit the scorers' table. The athletes witness the competition in real time, those who would have them slashed from the Games with superior lifts pooling sweat at their feet and crying triumph with each successful lift.
This is not a USA Weightlifting event. It is the future. Hundreds of eyes fixed on a stadium littered with lifters, not one paying attention to protocol or deferentially waiting their turn to lift, none worried if they'll follow themselves on the next lift--it's guaranteed that they will.
There are no games to play, no strategy, no energy saved for lifts two and three. They lift until they fail, and then they lift again.
The traditional throng, baited breath in a fluorescent-washed gymnasium, is replaced with the vanguard of training, hundreds of valkyries sucking dirt and spitting fire, CrossFitters who recognize that work done is work done. They know that fitness is not measured in an instant but a series of instants, an endless thread of pain and resolve, held together with the glue of pride and the threat of failure.
It isn't just spectator friendly. It's an orgy of entertainment, created by a single rule: Stand It Up. Dumped barbells carom back toward the lifters, thrown unto the duplicitous curbs at their feet, giving a feeling of impending catastrophe and snap-focusing the risk of athletic pursuit.
There are those who would witness such a spectacle and bellow foul. This, they would say, is not weightlifting. This is an abomination.
They would be right, and for every wrong reason. We are no longer playing the same game, and just as you cannot call out baseball for cricket or black for white, you cannot call this a mangled weightlifting meet.
Instead, it is an evolution, a different creature, borne of the need to adapt. Until now, weightlifting was dying, its punctured lungs aspirating and collapsing. With a single hour on a sunburned farm, it now stands ready, the province of Red Bull sponsorships and worshipful ten-year olds, where the best aren't strong once an hour, but a dozen times in ten minutes, their fitness defined not in one sphere but in many.
There will be a fight, but it will not last long. First, the purists will laugh at the rules and the form, declaring that we couldn't possibly succeed with such a preposterous format. As the loads increase, they'll start with the 'dangerous', and as the crowds swell to fill the Rose Bowl, they'll seek sanction and injunction.
In the end, the resistance won't matter, because superiority survives on its own merit, because this is the future, wood and spandex be damned.
Authored by Jon Gilson and republished with permission from Again Faster.