This past weekend I had the chance to watch a screener of the upcoming American Weightlifting: A Documentary. This film was a passion project by Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics, one of the premiere weightlifting facilities in the United States.
The film itself runs about two hours, and takes a detailed look at the state of Olympic Weightlifting in this country and the inherent struggles the United States faces to becoming successful on a worldwide stage. We get to hear from experienced coaches, see a ton of footage of both modern facilities and ‘original’ gyms, and marvel at the dedication of the athletes. The film feels episodic – like a survey course of Olympic Weightlifting rather than having a specific theme. Perhaps my favorite parts were learning more about the history of weightlifting (see: Father Lange of Notre Dame) and watching one of the young US phenoms, D’Angelo Osorio, go through a weightlifting competition. I would love to see a full documentary just following one of these athletes some day!
I was lucky to have the chance to ask Greg about the state of Olympic Weightlifting in the US and what the future holds in store. Here’s what he had to say:
Matt: What motivated you to film this documentary, and what do you hope the film will accomplish for the weightlifting community?
Greg: “I thought it was something that needed to be done for the sake of helping the sport grow and recognizing the people who keep it alive, and I was fairly confident that no one else would be jumping on the task any time soon. Really I have no business making a movie, having no experience, no training, and no money, but the reality of the sport is that those are exactly the kind of circumstances we’re operating in much of the time. I think that despite it not being the greatest achievement of filmmaking, the way in which it was made is important part of the message it conveys, namely that we need to put in the work and find ways to get things done no matter what kind of disadvantages we’re facing.”
Matt: Who is your intended audience for the film?
Greg: “Ideally, everyone on Earth with access to a television or computer. Realistically, it’s largely for the weightlifting community in the US, but intended to appeal to people outside the sport. I really had two audiences in mind, which unfortunately don’t overlap at all. I wanted to make a movie that celebrated the hard work of the athletes and coaches and the sport itself in a way that the weightlifting community would enjoy, but I also wanted to create vehicle for getting the sport more exposure outside the small world of competitive weightlifting to generate some interest and hopefully new participation, sponsors, and media.”
Matt: The Doherty brothers have an interesting model for creating competitive athletes by starting within the high school system. Do you see this as the future of weightlifting in the US?
Greg: “I see it as being a necessary step for weightlifting to really become successful in this country. The number one goal needs to be dramatically increasing the participation of young athletes. This foundation is critical for selection and development of world class athletes, and presently we’re greatly limited by the fact that the majority of the small number of lifters we do have come into the sport at too late an age.”
Matt: Where do you see the sport of Olympic Weightlifting 25 years from now?
Greg: “I don’t see any major changes in the sport internationally occurring. I don’t foresee any significant rule changes. One possibility is a change in drug testing, but what shape that will take and what real effect it will have, I don’t know. I am hopeful, however, that the sport in this country in 25 years will have advanced significantly in terms of the number of lifters and coaches, and as a consequence, the money in the sport, the exposure, and the success of our top lifters internationally.”
Matt: If you had one recommendation for someone who sees this film and wants to start Olympic Weightlifting, what would it be?
Greg: “The most important thing you can do is find a coach and a team to learn from and train with. Such a big part of the sport is the community and the team atmosphere. That doesn’t mean you can’t do well or enjoy it training on your own in your garage, but I do believe you’re missing such a great part of it, and there’s no question you’ll be more successful with qualified guidance than on your own. Second best is reading and watching as much information as possible, which is fortunately easy to do now with the internet. Become a part of a community one way or another, whether it’s just being a part of a forum with other weightlifters, or having a friend you can talk about your training with.”
Be sure to check out American Weightlifting: A Documentary when it hits DVD/download on November 16th of this year. They are already accepting pre-orders! If you’re a sports fan, fitness enthusiast, coach, or just love documentaries, there’s something in here for you. Plus, you have the added bonus of helping to support these athletes and coaches.