USA Women’s Weightlifting–A Look Back Part 2 — Takano Weightlifting

USA Women's Weightlifting--A Look Back Part 2 — Takano Weightlifting

The Women’s World’s Coach

One of USA Weightlifting’s responses to the upgrading of the women’s program was the consistent selection of Tommy Kong as the head coach for the world’s from 1987 to 1990. Unquestionably Tommy had legendary status and he added credibility and cachet to the women’s team. Having coached the Olympic teams of Mexico, Germany and the US, his credentials as an international level coach were uncontested, but there were some rumblings within the women’s community since Tommy had not produced a female medalist at the national level.

Now this paragraph is purely conjecture on my part but I think that miring Tommy into the women’s program was a way to keep the more coveted men’s world team coach position open for some of the more ambitious male coaches of that era. At the time the women’s program was considered secondary so naming a coach of the women’s team was one way of acknowledging coaching expertise but not as prestigious as naming one to the men’s team. Incidentally I applied for the women’s head coach in 1990 and came in second in the voting for Tommy as might be expected. As it turned out Tommy had some commitments in Hawaii that would keep him from attending the women’s world’s, so I was moved up. This made me the Gerald Ford of world team coaches.

Fusion—International Style

In 1990 the women’s world’s were combined with the junior men’s world’s in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. I think the IWF was experimenting with the logistics of holding a world’s with both men and women. They repeated this experiment in 1991 by combining senior men and women in Donaueschingen, Germany. This also provided the IWF big shots with a chance to see how well the women’s program had developed.

The Olympic Festival

From 1978 to 1995 the USOC held an event called the Olympic Festival during the non-Olympic years. They paid all the bills—travel, food, housing, outfitting, etc. Officials, staff, coaches and athletes were all included. It was basically a domestic Olympics with all Olympic sports on the program. It eventually went under because it turned out not to be the big ticket draw as originally planned, but while it lasted, it was a great event especially for the lower draw sports like weightlifting.

Since it was drug tested we were able to use it as a world and Pan-Am trials and it offered an opportunity for the elite members of the community to convene and conduct business and planning. The format was to invite the top four competitors in each class and thus each session was an A session. Although women’s weightlifting was not yet an Olympic sport, the women were scheduled from 1990 forward and were given full parity with the men.

Moreover the format was to divide the athletes into four teams—East, West, North, South. This meant that there were positions for four head women’s coaches, four head men’s coaches, four assistant women’s coaches and four assistant men’s coaches. This proved to be an excellent training exercise for up and coming coaches interested in advancing up the coaching ladder.


During the 1990’s USAW had an outfitting agreement with adidas for the men’s team (since it was an Olympic event), but not so much for the women. The men’s national team was always assured of getting top of the line adidas outfits. This was not always the case for the women as they were not assured of Olympic inclusion until 1997. This disparity led to some rumblings within the women’s weightlifting community.

Parity at last!

In 1997 the announcement was made that women’s weightlifting would be included in the 2000 Olympic Games. One of the ways in which Olympic sports is characterized is by the number of gold medals awarded as this affects the number of beds allocated in the Olympic village. The last time that it was men’s only (1996), weightlifting was good for 10 gold medals. The 2000 games would represent an upgrade for the sport to 15 gold medals—8 for the men, 7 for the women. It also indirectly brought about the development of the 15 kg bar for the women.

In the past 20 years women’s weightlifting has gained in stature and it appears as though the funding from the various national Olympic committees is moving closer to parity. Coaches are not being stigmatized for coaching women and the concept of strong, athletic women is becoming much more acceptable.

While there is still much more work to be done, it is hoped that these two blog posts will allow for some reflection and the realization of the amount of ground that has been covered. Writing them has made me re-appreciate the intrepidness of the early competitors and the sport leaders who assisted them along the way.

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