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Olivia Reeves makes weightlifting worlds podium, can unseat U.S. Olympic silver medalist

Olivia Reeves

USA Weightlifting

Olivia Reeves is only 20 years old and already shaking up weightlifting, internationally and domestically.

Reeves took bronze in the 71kg (156-pound) division at the world weightlifting championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday.

The Tennessee-Chattanooga sophomore totaled 557 pounds between the snatch and clean and jerk, a world junior record total. She beat everyone except China’s Liao Guifang (who broke her own world record by lifting 601 pounds) and Ecuador’s Angie Palacios (562 pounds).

Another American, Kate Vibert (formerly Kate Nye), placed fifth on Wednesday, finishing two spots behind Reeves for a second consecutive worlds.

Reeves moved one kilogram (two pounds) ahead of Vibert in Olympic qualifying. Rankings are determined by totaling an athlete’s best snatch and clean and jerk lifts over major competitions during the qualifying period, which runs into next year.

A nation can enter no more than one lifter per event for the Paris Games, and no more than three per gender across all events.

There are five events per gender at the Olympics (down from seven in Tokyo).

Vibert took silver in the 76kg division at the Tokyo Games, the best Olympic finish for an American lifter since 2000.

With the Olympic program being cut down to five events, the 76kg division was taken off the program for Paris.

So Vibert moved back down to 71kg, where she won the world title in 2019 (when it was not an Olympic weight).

Now, Reeves and Vibert are essentially in direct competition for one Olympic spot (unless Americans emerge in other weight classes, and the U.S. doesn’t take anyone in 71kg).

The Paris spot would go to whichever athlete is higher in Olympic qualifying rankings come the cutoff date in April.

“We’re cursed and we’re blessed,” U.S. director of coaching Mike Gattone said, according to the International Weightlifting Federation. “We have two in each category fighting it out and you can see what it does. In Cuba (at the last qualifier) Kate did better and Olivia was crying, and this time it’s the other way around. They’re pushing the heck out of each other.”