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Olympic Weightlifting Spots Taken

July 22, 2000

WESTWEGO, La. (AP) _ Cheryl Haworth, the queen of American barbells at age 17, needed only sign her name Saturday to give herself a chance to become the first American in 40 years to win an Olympic weightlifting gold medal.

Haworth, who lifts the equivalent weight of a F-15 fighter plane during daily 2 1/2-hour workouts, took such a big lead into the trials that she earned one of the four U.S. spots for the first Olympic women’s weightlifting competition merely by showing up.

Haworth was cheered on by a sizable contingent of fans from the U.S. lifting capital of Savannah, Ga., as she competed mostly for practice. Despite failing to win a gold medal at the junior world championships earlier this month, she is given an excellent chance of winning the 230 pounds plus (75 kilograms plus) weight class in Sydney on Sept. 22.

The United States has not won an Olympic weightlifting medal since 1984 and no American has won a gold medal since Charles Vinci in 1960.

Haworth, a high school honors student who passed up an early entry to college to try for Sydney, world champion Agat Wrobel of Poland, Haworth and Meiyan Ding of China are considered the best heavyweight lifters.

While Haworth competes in weightlifting’s biggest class _ she is 5-foot-8 and weighs 300 pounds _ lightweight Tara Nott of Stilwell, Kansas, secured her spot by impressively hitting all six of her lifts.

She set American records at 106 pounds (48kg) by lifting 181 1/2 pounds (82.5 kilogram) in the snatch and a combined weight of 407 pounds (185kg) in the snatch and clean and jerk.

In the snatch, the weight is raised over the head in a single motion. In the clean and jerk, in which Nott lifted twice her body weight plus 20 pounds, the bar is raised to the chest before being taken over the head.

``It was one of those days where everything goes right,″ said the 28-year-old Nott, who was an age-group star in gymnastics and soccer before switching to weightlifting in 1995. ``This is what you train for. I’ve always been a competitive person, and I’ve never been one to be pushed around.″

Nott upstaged fellow 48-kg lifter Robin Goad of Newnan, Ga., for the second spot. Goad, a 1994 world champion, hit only two of her six lifts and finished a combined 22 pounds behind Nott, but held onto the third spot going into the final round of lifters.

Because they compete at the same weight, one of the two likely will be moved up to 117 pounds (53 kg) at Sydney, probably Goad, who recently moved down to 48kg.

``I don’t know anything about that,″ said Goad, who named her daughter Sydney in honor of the 2000 Games. ``I don’t want to move.″

The fight for the two men’s spots _ two more might be added in an Olympic committee vote before the Games _ was much closer, although top-ranked Oscar Chaplin III appeared to retain his No. 1 ranking despite not improving his standing.

Chaplin, also of Savannah, set a U.S. record of 346 1/2 pounds (157.5kg) in the snatch, but missed twice at 412 1/2 pounds (187.5kg) in the clean and jerk. He hit that weight earlier this month in Prague while overshadowing Haworth to become the first American gold medalist in the junior world championships.

Because he didn’t improve on his ranking, the 20-year-old Chaplin had to sweat it out while No. 2 seeded Tom Gough and No. 3 Wes Barnett lifted later in the day.

There are eight men’s and seven women’s weight classes in Olympic weightlifting. However, the United States won’t have lifters at each weight after qualifying for four women’s spots and only two men’s spots at last year’s world championships.

Saturday’s trials in suburban New Orleans were the conclusion to 1 1/2 years of qualifying. Before 1984, the trials were the sole criteria. However, after 1984 Olympic medal favorite Curt White had a poor trials and didn’t make the team, the qualifying procedure was altered to include the combined results of multiple competitions.

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