U.S. Weightlifting Team Doubled to 10
ATLANTA (AP) _ The U.S. weightlifting team has gotten bigger.
The Olympic squad was increased from five members to 10 just before the start of competition at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Thursday was the deadline for countries to submit their rosters, and several brought fewer athletes than expected. So the United States received the additional spots.
Added by the International Weightlifting Federation following a technical conference were Tom Gough, 24, of Fairfax, Va., in the 200 1/2-pound division; Vernon Patao, 26, of Wailuku, Hawaii in the 141-pound division; Pete Kelley, 22, of St. Joseph, Mo., in the 218 1/4-pound division; Tom Ingalsbe, 26, of Powder Springs, Ga., in the over 238-pound division; and Thanh Nguyen, 32, of Pacific, Calif., in the 141-pound division.
A spokesman for the American team said Friday that representatives from 81 countries will compete in weightlifting _ most of any sport in the games.
``We wanted to be part of this party,″ U.S. Weightlifting Federation president Jim Schmitz said. ``The U.S. has been an international leader, player and contributor to weightlifting. I’m quite choked up about (having a full team of 10). It’s been very stressful until now.″
Originally, the United States had only three Olympic team members because it fared so poorly in the 1995 world championships, finishing 31st. The top 34 nations from the world championships qualified three to 10 athletes each, depending on their final ranking.
But two U.S. athletes were added in May: Bryan Jacob, 26, of Palatka, Fla., in the 130-pound division, and Konstantine Starikovitch, 27, of White Plains, N.Y., in the 238-pound division.
Starikovitch moved to the United States from Russia in 1991 and became a U.S. citizen 16 days before qualifying for the American team at the Olympic trials in April.
The original three selections were Mark Henry, 25, of Silsbee, Texas in the over-238 pound division; Wes Barnett, 26, of St. Joseph, Mo., in the 238-pound division; and Tim McRae, 25, of Daytona Beach, Fla., in the 154-pound division.
Henry, Barnett, McRae and Jacob all competed in the 1992 Olympics.
No American weightlifter has won an Olympic medal since 1984, but U.S. coach Dragomir Ciorosian expects that streak to end.
``They are ready to compete,″ he said. ``They are ready, prepared and anxious to lift. There will probably be a lot of personal records set by our guys.″
The last American lifter to win a gold medal was Chuck Vinci in 1960.
There are 10 Olympic weight classes. One division will be contested per day for five straight days, starting Saturday with the 119-pound (54-kilogram) division. Then, following a day off, the final five divisions will be contested, one per day, finishing with the over 238-pound division (108-plus kilograms) on July 30.
Among the leading contenders in the 119-pound division are Halil Mutlu of Turkey and Zhang Xiangsen and Lan Shizhang, both of China.
The first American lifter in action will be Jacob in the 130-pound division Sunday.