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As a means to measure strength and power, weightlifting was practised both by ancient Egyptian and Greek societies. It developed as an international sport primarily in the 19th century and is one of the few sports to have featured at the 1896 Athens Games.
At the beginning of the century, Austria, Germany and France were the most successful nations. However in the 1950s, the Soviet Union’s weightlifters rose to prominence and stayed there until the 1990s when China, Turkey, Greece and Iran catapulted to the lead. In the women’s field, China has been dominant since the very beginning.
Although men’s weightlifting has always been on the programme of the Olympic Games - except for at the 1900, 1908 and 1912 editions – women started to participate only at the 2000 Games in Sydney.
The Olympic weightlifting programme has evolved greatly over time. Today, weightlifters compete in snatch and clean and jerk, and are placed according to their total combined result. From the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, men have competed in eight weight categories and women in seven. This total of 15 events remains unchanged.
Turkey’s and Halil Mutlu have each won three gold medals, like Greece’s Pyrros Dimas and Kakhi Kakhiasvilis. Hungarian weightlifter Imre Földi and Germany’s Ronnie Weller and Ingo Steinhöfel hold a special record: they participated in the Olympic Games five times.
In women’s weightlifting, China’s Chen Yanqing and Liu Chunhong have both won two gold medals.
Weightlifting has been present at 23 editions of the Games, and has placed on the podium champions from 32 different National Olympic Committees (NOCs).