Recently, I travelled throughout the United States and wanted to share my personal thoughts with you today. Before I begin, I want to emphasize that these are solely my own opinions and do not represent any organizations or parties.
My first impression of the US came from taking an Uber at JFK International Airport in New York. I was surprised by the size of the SUV that arrived, as it was much larger than what I'm used to seeing in Shanghai, London, or Japan. However, I soon learned that this is normal in the US. Everything seems scaled up to one size, which may seem wasteful, but it's just part of the US style.
While New York is similar to Shanghai with its skyscrapers, bad traffic, and crowds, it can be challenging to run a weightlifting club in New York due to the need for a relatively spacious room to accommodate equipment and allow for dropping the bar without disturbing neighbors. However, the rest of the country is different, as it's nearly impossible to live without a car.
Gyms in the US
I was surprised to find that gyms in the US, even in New York, are larger than what I expected. The US has more resources and less population intensity, which allows for larger gym spaces. However, I found that many Olympic weightlifters train on their own and follow their own programs. While this may be more flexible in time and economical training, it might be causing slow improvement and a higher risk of injury due to the lack of professional attention.
In Shanghai, we typically have two styles of training: group sessions with one coach leading the class and providing instruction or personal training sessions focused on 1 on 1 improvement. I also noticed that some classes start as early as 4 pm in the US, which would be impossible in Shanghai since most people are still in the office until 6 pm or later.Overall, I think that the weightlifting market is still a quite niche market, but it's already much better due to the popularity of CrossFit. According to the law of development, something that is small and growing will have a prosperous future, while something that's already popular must be going down very soon. So, I'm not worried about the Olympic weightlifting market size in the US; it will eventually grow big.
Meet Greg Everett
During my travels, I had the opportunity to visit Greg Everett in Terrebonne. As a staple in Olympic weightlifting and someone who has devoted 20 years of his life to this field, I have immense respect for him. He has created a substantial amount of high-quality content and continues to do what he believes is right, without compromising social media trends.
He lives a life that I dream of, surrounded by mountains and focused solely on Olympic weightlifting coaching, without the stress of gym operations or crowds.
Although his focus is on top-level athlete training, my personal goal is to help ordinary lifters like myself to enjoy the sport freely without worrying about pain and injury. Despite our differing goals, we are walking different paths to the same objective of thriving the Olympic weightlifting community.
In the United States, lifting a weight can make anyone an athlete, regardless of their skill level. However, in China, the term "athlete" is typically reserved for those who are already at a high level and can compete in professional competitions. To compete in China, you must register and be certified as an athlete, and resources are limited to the public. China dominates the Olympic weightlifting world and focuses on producing gold medalists through heavy investment in the best athletes and coaches. In contrast, weightlifting in the United States is more of a personal hobby and a choice. There is little government involvement, and the sport is more market-based and commercialized.
In China, the government has traditionally supported sports that have the potential to earn enough gold medals, and weightlifting has been no exception. However, recent scandals and doping controversies in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) have raised concerns about the future of weightlifting in the Olympics, including the possibility that it may be cancelled after the Paris Olympic Games. If there is a high likelihood that China will not be able to secure as many gold medals in weightlifting, it remains to be seen whether the government will continue to pour as many resources into supporting Chinese weightlifting as a sport.
Overall, the meaning and accessibility of the term "athlete" differ between China and the United States. In the end there are no good or bad, the goals are different, so the ways presenting them are different, that’s it. But both countries approach weightlifting with their unique perspectives. It will be interesting to see how both nations continue to develop in this exciting sport.