US Olympic Weightlifting Team Trials

St. Joseph, Missouri - With a handful of new American records reflecting the level of competition, the 2004 US Olympic Weightlifting Team Trials provided plenty of excitement yesterday in the city that has been at the forefront of the sport in the United States in recent years. The highly-coveted Olympic team slots were decided based on the lifter's percentage of the qualifying total, and lifters were coming into the Trials with the hope of either retaining or gaining one of the five berths available to American weightlifters. With two places available on the women's team, Cheryl Haworth and Tara (Nott) Cunningham had the highest rankings coming into the Trials and at the end of the day, they still had them, putting them on the team headed to Athens this summer. Cunningham, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist, finished with an 80-kg snatch, and a 97.5-kg clean and jerk in the 48-kg category. Haworth, who won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics, did 122.5/150 in the +75-kg category. Although neither Danica Rue (69-kg category) nor Cara Heads (75-kg category) made the 2004 US Olympic team, both set new American records: Rue with a 122.5-kg clean and jerk, and Heads with a 127.5-kg clean and jerk, and a 230-kg total. The men's team had three places available, and coming into the Trials, the three top-ranked lifters were Shane Hamman, Oscar Chaplin III, and Chad Vaughn, but hometown hero Pete Kelley was expected to make a bid to move up in the rankings and capture one of the available slots. Vaughn (77 kg) started the day as the third-ranked man, so was the most vulnerable to getting bumped, and he opened the door when he missed his first two snatches (145 kg), before coming back and making a pressure lift on his third attempt. Casey Burgener helped to light up the contest with a 171-kg American record snatch in the 105-kg category, breaking Pete Kelley's record, but it wouldn't last long, because Kelley, who has been coming on strong and had an entire cheering section of dedicated supporters, hit 172.5 on his third attempt to reclaim his record and get his day off to an excellent start. Given what he'd snatched, there was a pervasive feeling that Kelley was fully capable of cleaning and jerking what he needed to claim the third position on the men's team, but he appeared to suffer a hamstring injury on his opening clean and jerk, 207.5 kg, and he shut down as the bar came past his knees. Despite the best efforts to manage the clock and Kelley's determination to try again, when he came out for 215 kg on his second attempt, Kelley had to stop the lift almost as soon as he began his pull, and was forced by his injury to withdraw from the competition. Along with Haworth and Cunningham on the women's team, Vaughn, Chaplin and Hamman made the men's team. Michael Cohen was named the women's coach and Gayle Hatch was named the men's coach.

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