‘I was so ecstatic’: Katherine Nye captures best U.S. weightlifting result in 21 years

Japan 2020

American 22-year-old Katherine Nye delivered the best performance for a U.S. weightlifter at the Olympics in over two decades Sunday, winning a silver medal in the women’s 76 kg/156 lbs category at the Tokyo Games.

“I’m so excited that I was able to do it, “Nye said in a conversation with reporter Jack Doles. “It was awesome.”

Nye lifted a personal-best total of 249 kg (549 lbs) between a 111 kg (245 lbs) snatch and a 138 kg (304 lbs) clean & jerk, also a PB. She placed behind only Ecuador’s Neisi Dajomes.

Nye is the first American to win silver or better in weightlifting at the Olympics since Tara Nott lifted to 48 kg/106 lbs gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. 

“I’m super excited about it. I think I did exactly what I planned to do,” Nye added.

The Berkley, Michigan, native first took up weightlifting as a teenager through CrossFit training after spending 11 years as a gymnast. In 2019, she became the youngest American to win a world weightlifting championship when she lifted a total of 248 kg (546 lbs) to top the non-Olympic 71 kg/156 lbs weight category. She was 20 at the time.

She moved up five kilos in the two years since to compete in the 76 kg/156 lbs division, which is contested at the Olympics.

Nye completed her first snatch attempt of the competition at 107 kg (236 lbs) with relative comfort. She was just as convincing on her second lift at 111 kg (245 lbs).

For her final snatch attempt, Nye successfully raised a personal best 114 kg (251 lbs) in what appeared to be a dream start to the competition. Nye was visibly thrilled and threw her arms in the air in celebration immediately after being awarded the lift.

That proved to be a costly error.

The jury of officials put the lift under review, ultimately ruling it a no-lift when replay showed that Nye removed her hands from the bar before it had fallen past her shoulders. For safety reasons, weightlifters must guide the bar’s fall at least to shoulder level with both hands. Failing to do so disqualifies the lift.

Nye had roughly 30 minutes to come to grips with her error, put it behind her and refocus for the second half of the competition, the clean & jerk. Her second lift at 111 kg had her in third position at the break.

Meanwhile, Dajomes hit all three of her snatch attempts including a 118 kg (260 lbs) mark on her final lift to grab the lead. She let out a determined roar in celebration, but not before the bar had cleared her shoulders.

Nye took her first clean & jerk attempt at 133 kg (293 lbs). She completed the lift without issue, deliberately guiding the bar all the way to the floor. She glared at the jury as she walked off the platform.

Dajomes proceeded to successfully lift 135 kg (298 lbs). Then Nye again, 138 kg (304 lbs) with authority, a personal best.

The Ecuadorian improved to 140 kg (309 lbs) on her second clean & jerk attempt to take a nine-kilo lead into the final attempt.

Dajomes put 145 kg (320 lbs) on the bar to try to put the gold medal out of Nye’s reach. The attempt was initially ruled a no-lift despite Dajomes getting the bar overhead, but a jury’s review awarded her the lift. A perfect six-for-six performance to become the Olympic champion and put Ecuador on the weightlifting map.

Nye went for an adventurous final attempt at 148 kg (326 lbs) but came up empty. She beamed with delight, knowing she had just secured the best result for an American weightlifter at the Olympic Games since she was an infant.

The U.S. has now won a weightlifting medal in back-to-back Olympic Games. At Rio 2016, Sarah Robles secured a bronze medal in the 75+ kg/165 lbs competition. Robles has a chance to repeat or better that effort later in the Tokyo Games.

All three 76 kg/156 lbs medals went to the western hemisphere Sunday as Mexico’s Aremi Fuentes took advantage a pair of bomb-outs by South Korean Kim Su-Hyeon and Ukraine’s Iryna Dekha to win the bronze for Mexico’s fourth-ever weightlifting medal.

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