On July 24th, USA Weightlifting (USAW) announced that the Nike American Open Series 3 (AO Series 3) event initially scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, Nevada from September 17th-20th would transition to an online event in response to the ongoing global health crisis. It will still take place on that same weekend and will be a live event. However, it will be entirely remote.
Moving a competition like this online is not unprecedented given that the Pan Am Cup and the 2020 Rogue Invitational both did so previously with successful outcomes. In the announcement, USAW CEO Phil Andrews said:
This is an innovative solution for an unprecedented time in our history. By holding this event remotely, we can assure our members that a weightlifting competition will happen that weekend.”
We were able to reach USAW Events & Sponsorships Director Pedro Meloni for a more detailed explanation as to what influenced this decision. Check out his responses below.
Editor’s Note: BarBend is the Official Media Partner of USA Weightlifting. The two organizations maintain editorial independence unless otherwise noted on specific content projects.
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Note: bolding done by BarBend editorial team for emphasis.
What factors did USAW look at when deciding whether to move the competition online?
“Mainly, we looked at the health and safety of the participants and to Las Vegas’ and Nevada’s local regulations. With the uncertainty of the situation in Las Vegas, we erred on the side of caution to move the competition online. We simply didn’t know what the situation would be like in September. With the health and safety of our members paramount, we felt this was the best option to ensure of having some type of competition.
Another important factor was the availability of Technical Officials for this event, as much of that group sits on the demographics that is hit the most by the current pandemic. Much like to when we postponed the National Championships, that was a painful decision to make.”
When did you start considering moving the competition to a virtual/remote model?
“The first concept that we came up with for an online competition dates [was] from early to mid-June. We have been monitoring the situation in all our host cities and trying to come up with alternatives from that very time should the pandemic not let up enough to allow us to have an in-person competition safely.
As an organization we want to be part of positive change and come up with solutions for our members. We didn’t want to simply cancel the event without offering an alternative. This is why we decided to host our largest to date remote competition. Athletes will be able to compete from their homes, their garages, or their gyms (when restrictions allow them to do so) and actively participate in a weightlifting session that mirrors the experience of a live competition.
All sessions will be webcasted on USAWeightlifting.org and our staff is working hard to produce and broadcast 12 [hours plus] of online content during the competition days.“
What has been the reception among USAW members to the announcement?
“I think that the reception has been fairly positive. Much like our members, of course we would rather be in Vegas in September and host the competition in person. But given the cards that we have been dealt with, this is not possible. We are hopeful this will be a fun and relevant competition for our athletes and coaches.”
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If successful, is it possible we could see more virtual USAW competitions even in a post COVID-19 world?
“Absolutely, why not? If we show that this can be done, I really think that we can repeat and improve the formula in the future. I certainly don’t see online competitions as a substitute to live events. At the same time, I don’t think that is an ‘either or’ situation. In the future, we might have live AND online events as part of our calendar.“
Are there any previous online/virtual competitions you’re looking to for guidance and/or inspiration?
“Yes. Although conceptually different, the 2020 Rogue Invitational and our own Virtual Selection Camps are definitely sources of inspiration. We won’t be able to control as many factors as those two examples were (basically anyone can be a “host-site” at our event, for example) but yes, these events provide us good guidance on what to expect for the remote competition.”
Participants in the AO Series 3 will be required to provide their own equipment “in accordance to their gender, age group and with the IWF Technical and Competition Rules and Regulations (TCRR).”
Feature image from USA Weightlifting’s Instagram page: @usa_weightlifting