Open Letter to IWF, IOC, USAW on New Weight Classes

Recommend to adopt the same set of classes, adopt no less than 8 classes, broaden the class range upward, and have common mens and womens classes where their ranges overlap.

March 6, 2018

To: International Weightlifting Federation,
International Olympic Committee,
USA Weightlifting

Dear Sirs/Mesdames:

A good time to alter weight classes to resets competition records is when significant new rule changes or radically improved drug testing technology are implemented. Absent that, what good does it do? The harm is significant; it disrespects all the current world record holders who's records will disappear from normal daylight. As to the number of weight classes to adopt in the future, it seems nonsensical to me that the IWF wants to add 2 and the IOC wants to reduce by 1. Reducing by one is rather petty by the IOC, lots of disruption to the sport for little gain (slightly reduced cost of weightlifting competition?). Why don't we just try to get along and leave it at eight? What is an appropriate number of weight classes in weightlifting? I don't see a magic number; it comes down to community preference and consensus. From a science point of view, I like 10 classes; it gives me 10 data points; the more the better. From a sports competition point of view, I'm inclined to agree that 10 is too many. Perhaps we should have only 1 weight class, unlimited class. After all, basketball doesn't have height classes; in track&field, throwers have only 1 class (weightlifters are essentially throwers). Sacrilege!, you say? I agree.

Let's look at the current 8 classes:

1) The RANGE of classes seems poorly chosen for both men and women. 48kg women and 56kg men are often quite slender, lacking the height/weight or muscular thickness typical of the other weight classes. This suggests that the lowest weight classes are needlessly low.

2) There is a big jump between the mens 105kg class and the typical weights in the +105kg class—which reach into the +160kg evermore commonly. Zakharevich, at 5'11" (180cm) in the 110kg class totalled 455kg, enough to medal in the +105kg class in most top international competitions. Most +105kg lifters are obese; by analyzing past relatively svelte lifters (e.g. Pisarenko, 186cm, ~125kg) and estimating the excess bodyfat weight of obese champion +105kg lifters, it is pretty easy to conclude that the current world records in this class could be achieved by a -120kg lifter. Increasing the upper range of restricted weight classes to ~120kg (+/- 5kg) would encourage most current +105kg lifters to train at lean body weight, which would be healthier for them as well as make the sport more attractive to viewers. The same rationale applies to the womens weight class range.

3) It is not uncommon for—already fully developed elite—lifters to compete successfully in two different classes in their career; it is also not uncommon to see lifters in adjacent weight classes who are equal in height. This suggests that the current weight classes are spaced too close together.

4) Since the world female population spans a different (lower) range of height and bodyweight than men, it makes sense that womens weight classes start lower and end lower then mens. However, I see no compelling reason for mens and womens classes to be different where their ranges overlap each other. For the sake of scientific study, and even to draw more interest and eyeballs to the sport by stimulating public chatter about the differences between men and women, it makes sense to use the same weight classes for men and women where their class ranges overlap.

5) Claims of determining weight classes via fancy statistical analysis of world male and female populations are greatly exaggerated. The current weight classes are separated by a factor of ~1.11 for men and ~1.1 for women (e.g. 56 x 1.11 = 62 rounded; 62 x 1.11 = 69 rounded; etc.). One common separation factor value for men and women will do just fine. The "correct" factor is simply the one that generates the desired number of weight classes and class range.

6) Maintaining a constant weight class spread factor greatly facilitates scientific investigations.

Based on the the above rationale, here are some illustrative alternatives for new classes; each alternative includes a weight class range adjustment upward, as per point (2) above, and uses the same class separation factor in order to obtain common mens and womens weight classes where their ranges overlap:

1) "MINIMAL CHANGE" alternative, 8 Classes:

Spread factor ~ 1.11
  Men:          62, 69, 77, 85, 94, 105, 116, +116 
Women:  50, 56, 62, 69, 77, 85, 94, +94 

2) "OLYMPIC SPREAD" alternatives, 7 classes (just examples):

Spread factor ~ 1.15 
  Men:     60, 69, 79, 91, 105, 121, +121 
Women: 52, 60, 69, 79, 91, 105, +105 

Spread factor ~ 1.14                         Different start weight: 
  Men:     59, 67, 76, 87, 99, 113, +113  |      60, 68, 78, 89, 101, 115, +115 
Women: 52, 59, 67, 76, 87, 99, +99        |  53, 60, 68, 78, 89, 101, +101 

Spread factor ~ 1.13 
  Men:     60, 68, 77, 87, 98, 110, +110  |
Women: 53, 60, 68, 77, 87, 98, +98        | 

Spread factor ~ 1.12
  Men:         65, 73, 82, 92, 103, 115, +115
Women: 52, 58, 65, 73, 82, 92, +92 
Note: by exploring these examples and calculating other spread factors, one can see that the choice of initial weight class to start the calculation is as relevant a variable as the choice of spread factor. In comparing 7 versus 8 classes, using 8 classes it easier to set a larger shift between mens and womens class ranges.

3) "IWF 10" alternative, 10 classes (just examples):

Spread factor ~1.1:
        58, 64, 70, 77, 85, 94, 103, 113, 124 +124
48, 53, 58, 64, 70, 77, 85, 94, 103, +103

Spread factor ~1.11:
        59, 66, 73, 81, 90, 100, 111, 123, 136, +136
48, 53, 59, 66, 73, 81, 90, 100, 111 +111

I find it odd that IWF contemplates adding 2 classes while IOC seeks to reduce by 1. If IWF presumably finds 10 classes marketable, then IOC should still see at least 8 as marketable. 8 classes is a convenient minimum, as per above. In any case, more power to IWF if it adds 2 classes even if IOC doesn't. It will be good for scientific investigation.

All things considered, I suggest IWF and IOC: adopt the same set of classes; adopt no less than 8 classes; broaden the class range upward; have common mens and womens classes where their ranges overlap; overall adopt something similar to the "MINIMAL CHANGE" alternative.

Carlo Moneti
Syracuse, NY