Q: Is Crossfit going to make the USA again competitive at Olympic Lifting?

A: At my Crossfit gym the other day during 6:15am class, we had an iPad showing the live stream of the Olympic Weightlifting.  Five people stayed after class and huddled around the stream, cheering on some tiny girl from Canada to lift a huge weight.  

Oly weightlifting is a sport in which America is not competitive.  Here’s the roster of USA athletes whose totals lifted during trials qualified them for the Olympics in London this year.

Three.  Yes, three.  Out of all of the divisions. (A 4th is injured and couldn’t go.)

Compare that to swimming (49 athletes sent) or track and field (124 athletes sent) or even Ping Pong (4 in a sport with no weight classifications and, yes, I called it Ping Pong.).

But, Crossfit is changing the visibility of Olympic Weightlifting (AKA “oly lifting”).  The signs are all around us.  Weightlifting shoes are selling out as fast as manufacturers can make them.  The Nike Romaleos 2 have only now come back into stock after a several month hiatus.  The Reebok oly lifting shoes are sold out and have been for months.

Crossfitters are doing, teaching and watching olympic lifting in large numbers.  With +-2,500 Crossfit gyms in the USA each with an average of 150 members, that’s approximately 375,000 people exposed to oly lifting right now.  Oly lifting, via the Crossfit Games, is now on mainstream American TV via ESPN2.  (In Europe, every TV I saw with the sports channel had either soccer/football or Oly lifting playing.)

It’s highly unlikely that the people doing Crossfit now will be world class Olympic lifters.  The results are going to show up in 10-15 years when the kids that are starting Oly lifting today become young adults.  As simple as those lifts appear, it takes a lifetime of training and the perfect physical and mental attributes to be able to put double your bodyweight overhead in one movement.  But, watch out for Team USA weightlifting in 2028 and we can thank the Crossfit movement for that.

Michael Girdley