The reason the US sucks at Oly Lifting is because there’s no system of development, and every year, it’s getting worse and worse in terms of turnout. It’s pretty much a reflection of how bad the people running USAW are.
While I would agree that many of our top athletes are playing other “money” sports, that’s simply an excuse. There’s plenty of Powerlifters all over the US, and that’s anything but a dying sport. For as long as there’s Powerlifters competing and on top of the world rankings, there’s enough of a lifter pool to draw from regardless if they’re our best athletes.
How soon we forget that up until the mid 1960’s, the US dominated Weightlifting, so there’s no reason why it can’t be restored to that level.
The first way it went wrong is that the US didn’t adapt to the first major rule change which allowed the bar to touch the body. This rule change pretty much changed Weightlifting completely because it made the lifts more about speed and less about brute strength. This was something the Russians figured out fast, especially when the Press was eliminated from the events, and not only did they biomechanically figure things out, they also realized that they needed to find specific lifters to compete in these events.
The Spartakiade was also a blow to the US during this time period. Not only were they making many scientific advancements, but the gov’t also used sports as a way of bringing the country together, and they used Weightlifting to show other countries that they were “strong” people but also a country. This concept started flowing out to the rest of Europe as well.
From this point on, the US has never been able to even get back into the mix with all these other countries. Where it’s really gone wrong is that there’s no programs designed to get kids into lifting. If you have this, you can then start identifying potential qualified lifters at much younger ages so that they can have a chance to compete at a very high level. Instead, USAW just figures lifters will do it on their own, and when they qualify to train at the OTC, then they will have their chance to achieve greatness. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
Unfortunately, I don’t foresee the US getting any better at Weightlifting…I guess that’s why they’re so vigilant about saying that their athletes are tested tougher than other countries.