Q: At the London Olympics the Chinese once again won the most gold medals in weightlifting. What are they doing differently than North American lifters? Do other countries simply need to invest more money in the sport to succeed?
A: Due to powerful challenges from Kazakhstan and North Korea, the Chinese were not as successful in London as they were in the Beijing Games, where their lifters won eight gold medals; however, China’s five golds are still more than any other country won in London. Further, if you look at the world ranking lists, you’ll see that there would be considerably fewer lifters from other countries in the “A” sessions if China were allowed to enter more than one athlete per bodyweight class.
Because this is the Information Age, we know quite a bit about how the top lifters from other countries train. There are some differences in the way the Chinese lifters train, especially in how they approach women’s training and contest preparation, but there are other factors that are responsible for their success. One is attitude.
The Chinese approach their training and competition more from a position of desperation than from desire. To them the training is their job, and they are focused on making the necessary sacrifices to succeed. You see it in the way they work out in the training halls before competition and the way they behave during competitions; compare that to the conduct of North American lifters, many of whom seem preoccupied with making the competition experience a social event and seeing who can come up with the best “swag.”
As for throwing more money into the sport, I think it’s more important to reward accomplishments. Look at the performance of the United States men’s and women’s track-and-field programs in the London Olympics. The U.S. certainly has a lot of opportunities for sprinters to earn college scholarships and train like Olympians, and we have an enormous genetic pool from which to select athletes, but in the 100- and 200-meter sprint events, men’s and women’s, the Jamaicans won three gold, three silver and three bronze. When you consider the size of Jamaica and the resources their athletes have available to them, you can see that money is not the only answer to winning more medals
When I was looking for a way to help out USA Weightlifting, I established a record incentive program for U.S. lifters in which they would get paid when they broke American records. In about a year and a half since I started the program, seven different athletes broke American records, many breaking several records. If you want to develop winners, you’ve got to reward success and not just participation.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. Also, see his ad on page 155. IM