Breaking Down Women’s Olympic Trials: Three Lifters Qualified, But Could That Change?

If the sport of weightlifting is referred to as the “Iron Game,” then the ability to track who is going to qualify for a USA Weightlifting (USAW) International team should be called the “Excel Spreadsheet Utilization Marathon.” Thanks to Olympic coverage sponsor NBC, we were able to watch online the excitement of who the final two women would be for the 2016 USA Olympic team. Additional thanks should be provided to Travis Mash and Matt Bergeron, who picked up Periscope coverage of the event after NBC’s app stream shut down with 45 minutes — and lots of important lifts — remaining in the competition.

How Did We Get to Salt Lake City?

In January of this year, USAW published their selection procedures for the 2016 Olympic Games. The world found out Jenny Arthur would be on the Road to Rio based on scoring the most points for Team USA at the 2014 & 2015 World Championships. The remaining two spots would go to the athletes with the best chance to medal based on their totals from four qualification events:

  • 2015 World Championships 
  • 2015 American Open 
  • Olympic Qualification Session held at 2016 Junior National Championships
  • 2016 Senior National Championships

What Math Do I Need to Understand?

The ranking methodology is based on ability to medal (i.e. place 3rd or higher). Each athlete’s total was ranked as a percentage of the 5 year average of 3rd place. Going into the Olympic Trials, the top two ranked women for available spots were Sarah Robles (75+KG) and Mattie Rogers (69KG). This is the ranking list from the USAW website as of last week:


As you can see, Robles’ total from the World Championships is 96% of the total (on average) needed to medal. Rogers’ total going in was 92.8%, and King’s best total in the qualification period was 91%.

Tell Me About the Olympic Trials

The competition itself had the excitement and drama one would expect of elite level competition, including multiple American Records being attempted. The highlights of the snatch portion included:

  • Morghan King (48KG) successfully snatching 80KG (176lb). This set her up nicely for the required 174KG (383lb) total she would need to jump in front of Rogers based on pre-Olympic Trials rankings.
  • Cortney Batchelor (53KG) snatched 86KG (189lb), which technically only ties the American Record. However, the current record holder is Charis Chan, who allegedly has been linked to a failed drug test dating back to the 2015 American Open where she set the record. If these rumors hold true, Batchelor would become the new record holder. Regardless, it was a fantastic lift.
  • Jessica Lucero (58KG) was on the verge of bombing out in the snatch portion of the competition when she successfully set a new American Record with 93KG (205lb). This would be the first of multiple she would set on the day.
  • Mattie Rogers (69KG) successfully snatching 106KG (233lb). This was a new American Record, and it also set her up well going into the Clean & Jerk. Being one of the stronger woman in the competition, if King were to surpass her in the rankings, Rogers  would have a realistic opportunity to attempt a realistic weight to regain her spot.
  • Jenny Arthur (75KG) had a strong attempt at an American Record snatch of 107KG (235lb), however it was just a bit off. She looks very strong as she gears up towards the Olympics this summer.

  • Sarah Robles (75+KG) was unfortunately unable to complete a lift with her opener of 118KG (260lb). In the long run, it’s not a big deal, everyone has a bad day. However, this being the Olympic Trials, it meant there was no threat to the other competitors of her advancing her ranking on the team. The potential of two woman surpassing her in the rankings was present until all was said and done.

The clean & jerk portion of the competition was equally exciting, as this would determine the Olympic Team. The highlights of this included:

  • Morghan King (48KG) her opening attempt of 95KG (209lb) moved her onto the Olympic team, ahead of Rogers in the rankings. She would advance ahead of Robles in the rankings with her 3rdattempt of 100KG (220lb). Both of her lifts are within 3KG (<7 lb) of the American Records currently owned by 2000 Olympic Champion, Tara Nott Cunningham.
  • Jessica Lucero (58KG) successfully lifted 115KG (253lb) and totaled 208KG (458lb) to set new American Records across the board in both lifts and the total.

  • Mattie Rogers (69KG) was successful with 132KG (290lb) on her second attempt, after previously missing it on her first. That left the door open for a HUGE 141KG (310lb) clean & jerk attempt to put her back on the Olympic Team. Unfortunately it was not there for her at that point in time, and the attempt ended up being a clean pull.

What Is Next for the American Women?

Jenny Arthur, Morghan King, and Sarah Robles will be representing the USA in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The remaining top ranked women, such as Rogers and Lucero, will be invited to represent the USA at the Pan American Games to be held next month in Cartagena, Colombia. There is no chance USAW can earn any additional Olympic Spots based on competition at the Pan Am Games, this is only for countries that do not have any Olympic Spots going into the competition

There is a VERY SMALL chance that due to recent charges of doping violations in connection with the 2015 World Championships, USAW could earn an additional Olympic spot for the women. If this were to occur, USAW Policy (page 13) states that:

“If the U.S. Women’s Team is granted a fourth slot as a result of the 2015 World Championships due to the doping hearings, then the fourth slot will be filled through the PATH 1: Placement & Scoring System.”

Path 1, which is the method that awarded an Olympic Spot to Jenny Arthur, ranks athletes based on the points they scored in the 2014 & 2015 World Championships. The rationalization is that without those points, there would not be Olympic Spots.

Path 2 is the method that ranks athletes based on their ability to medal at the Olympic. In USAW’s policy, it is vague how this hypothetical 4th spot would be awarded, as Robles scored the 2nd most individual points based on her 6th place finish at the 2015 World Championships.

If this means the entire rankings will be re-worked: Olympic Spots would be awarded to Arthur and Robles based on Path 1; King and Rogers based on Path 2. If the 4th Olympic Spot is awarded based on Path 1 to an athlete that currently does not have an Olympic Spot, that athlete would be Holley Mangold, based on 13th and 23rd place finishes respectively in 2014 & 2015; this is because she would have the most points scored and has not yet secured an Olympic spot.