USA Weightlifting released an official statement last week confirming the USOC’s decision to close the USAW residency program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Many high-profile American weightlifters, including all three  of the female athletes going to Rio, had active residencies at the Center. They will all be forced to find a new program from September 30, 2016.


In a statement, the USAW CEO Phil Andrews commented: We are truly disappointed to see the end of our resident program. This historic training site has assisted in producing Olympians and champions in our sport. “


Andrews went on to say that awareness of the closure prior to the 2016 Games had given USAW time to evaluate their training needs going into the next Olympic quadrennial.  


The closure comes amidst cynical public reaction in the West to four Olympic weightlifting champions failing blood retests from London and Beijing, with megastar Ilya Ilyin now confirmed as a positive test. Matt Foreman of Catalyst Athletics is one of many coaches chalking it up as a win for lifters in countries with more rigorous doping protocols. Foreman commented in a recent blog post that:


Announcements like this really jam up those knuckleheads who think the Europeans are better than the U.S. because they have tougher work ethic… It’s a rare moment of encouragement for those of us in U.S. weightlifting who know they’re mainly better than us because they have superior pharmaceuticals…[and] financial opportunity.


He’s absolutely right.


Whilst it’s true the astronomical rise of CrossFit has financially benefited the woefully undersubscribed weightlifting bodies in the West, the downfall of the American residency program is a profound reality check for all of us. Weightlifting fanatics new and old can now see our smallness in the face of the Olympic titans we compete with in countrywide funding battles. We have a long way to go before we can turn heads away from the bigger hitters. U.S. weightlifters are far from turning funding heads away from track and field athletes, and the U.K. crowd are not going to see the millions funneled into cycling and rowing anytime soon.


What can you do? Get out there. Compete, coach, and champion the sport on the local and national level. Support your country’s lifters at Rio and beyond, and keep doing everything to spread the good word about weightlifting.


Headline photo courtesy of USOTC1 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).