Now that East Tennessee State is an official Olympic Training Site for weightlifting, it could only be a matter of time before Olympians begin qualifying there.
The Stoneage Invitational Weightlifting Meet, the first meet held under the auspices of the ETSU Olympic Training Site, will begin Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Dome. ETSU was officially designated as a U.S. Olympic Training Site for weightlifting by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in April.
“We will probably have about 40 competitors coming in,” said Meg Stone, director of the Olympic Training Site. “They’re from a range of places. We have North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, so really a regional type meet. And it’s just our usual invitational meet but it’s a little bit special because it’s the first meet with the Olympic Training Center behind it.”
Stone said the invitational weightlifting meets began a few years ago with only about eight or 10 lifters attending.
“And it’s quite interesting how its just grown and grown and grown,” she said.
Six ETSU student weightlifters will compete Saturday.
Madison Shallcross, a theater major, is one of them. She said she was skeptical of becoming a weightlifter but “fell in love” with the sport after trying it.
Saturday will mark her fifth competition, she said.
“It is fun and I feel like I’m in the best shape I have ever been in,” Shallcross said. “And I just love it. Like, I feel so strong, so powerful. It kind of amazes people when I tell them how much I can squat and stuff, so it’s a good feeling.”
The weightlifting club at ETSU is larger but there are between 10 and 12 competing lifters this semester, said Tim McInnis, weightlifting coach.
He said weightlifting takes dedication and focus.
“It’s also one of those (sports), you know, where you’ve got to be a weightlifter in the gym and, you know, its easy to be in the gym, but outside the gym is where its difficult to say, ‘OK, I’m going to bed when I’m going to go to bed, I’m going to eat what I need to eat and when I need to eat. So to be good at weightlifting it’s a very big commitment.”
Now that the school has an Olympic training designation, there are opportunities to host bigger weightlifting meets. In fact, the National Collegiate Championships for weightlifting will be held at ETSU April 4-7, next year for the first time. The meet will bring in around 200 athletes and their coaches, trainers and families.
After this meet in April, Stone would like to host the American Open Championships for weightlifting. The following year she would like to host the national championships with the possibility of putting in a bid to host the 2016 Olympic trials.
“That’s our plan,” Stone said. “Whether that will come off or not, we’re not for sure but that’s what we would like to have happen.”
Stone, who is also director of the Center of Excellence in Sport Science and Coach Education, said she is trying to add the sports of rugby and cycling to the ETSU Olympic Training Site and hopes to have word on those sports soon.
Saturday’s event is free and open to the public. Light class lifters begin at 9 a.m. At noon the heavier class lifters begin.