2011 American Open!

In fewer than two weeks the 2011 American Open will be underway, and it will be busy! Here is the tentative start list.

107 women and 125 men have registered, a total of 232 athletes for fifteen weight classes. World Team members Hilary Katzenmeier, Rizelyx Rivera, Chioma Amaechi, Darren Barnes, Kendrick Farris, Jonathan North, and Donnie Shankle are competing only four weeks after lifting in Paris, and the rest of the nation's weightlifting elites are coming out in force.

This is only my understanding, not based on any official USAW communication, but it appears we currently have two women's slots locked down for the 2012 Olympics and zero men's slots. This matters because this AO is the first domestic qualifier for the Olympic Trials which will be held in March in conjunction with Senior Nationals. Because we did not secure anywhere near a high enough placing at Worlds to qualify any men, technically it appears Nationals will not actually be the men's Olympic Trials, and only the Pan American Championship team members a month or two later will be eligible if they can earn themselves a top-four team placing and the last-chance slot.

The qualifying totals have been increased for most of the weight classes in response to last year's attendance, and at a glance it seems that the competition is getting tougher. Nearly all of the weight classes are filled out with plenty of battles.

Hilary Katzenmeier
Suzanna Sanchez of LSU-Shreveport leads the 48kg women with Alison James (Team Florida) and Ellen Kercher (Team Georgia) close behind. Hilary Katzenmeier of East Coast Gold is far and away the favorite in 53kg but there is a tight contest for second and third with Jacque Payne (Front Range WLC) sporting the highest entry.
Rizelyx Rivera

Katzenmeier's World and ECG teammate Rizelyx Rivera, who recently set a new American record snatch, sits atop the 58kg women, although veteran Jackie Berube (Pinnacle Weightlifting) is not far behind.

The 63kg class will be one to watch, with returning Olympian Natalie Burgener (Team Crossfit) vying for one of the two coveted women's Olympic team spots. There is a large group of strong women behind her, however, and Ashley Perkovich (Unattached), Vanessa McCoy (Wesley Weightlifters), and Jessie Humeston (Front Range WLC) are only a few of the top contenders.

Natalie Burgener
In the 69kg class Aimee Anaya Everett (Catalyst Athletics) leads Allie Henry (Team Spartacus) by a small but notable margin, but Maegan-Lee Snodgrass (Team Praxis) and Brianna Barnett (Wesley Weightlifters) are only a few of the girls who are well within striking distance. The 75kg class is somewhat less competitive, and although Samantha Zimmerman (Gayle Hatch WLT) is only a few kilos ahead of Kristin Newman (United Barbell), Kristin has announced an entry total 23kg below her qualifying entry, and nobody else is really very close.

The 75+kg women's class will be a fight between Holley Mangold (Columbus WLC) and Chioma Amaechi (Hassle Free BBC). Chioma took the second 75+kg women's spot on both the Pan American and World Teams this year from Holley by tying her total and winning on bodyweight. Both will be possible Olympians next year, although Sarah Robles, our top finisher at Worlds this year, will surely try to qualify at the Olympic Trials/Nationals next March.

Darren Barnes
On the men's side Darren Barnes (Lindenwood Lions) is the easy 56kg favorite, outdistancing Kyle King's (Unattached) entry total by 40kg. At 62kg Darren's brother, Darrel Barnes (Lindenwood Lions), is right behind Sean Hutchinson (LSU-Shreveport). The competition starts to heat up at 69kg where Caleb Williams (Coffee's Gym) is poised to have another epic battle with Derrick Johnson (Lindenwood Lions). Meanwhile Mike Cerbus (Team Pendragon) is leading the 77kg class with Jason Bourgeois (Team Georgia), Adam Beytin [me!] (East Coast Gold), and Canadian national champion Laurent Goyette-Demers (Lindenwood Lions) not far behind.

Matt Bruce
The 85kg class will be the toughest at the meet with the top US male lifter of recent years Kendrick Farris (Unattached) competing against Matt Bruce (Gayle Hatch WLT), Travis Cooper (Team Georgia), and Mike Tirrito (Team New Jersey). Another weight class that has also filled out in the past couple years is the 94kg men, with Jonathan North (California Strength) and Phil Sabatini (East Coast Gold) holding shrinking leads over young lifters Coard Wilkes (OBX WLC) and Ian Wilson (Hassle Free BBC).

Donnie Shankle
Donnie Shankle (California Strength) is the easy favorite at 105kg, with Yasha Kahn (Boston Weightlifting), David Garcia (Hassle Free BBC), and Garrett Walters (East Coast Gold) fighting for silver. And at 105+kg Fernando Reis (Lindenwood Lions), Brazil's Pan American champion, should outdistance Shane Maier (Windy City WLC) and Cameron Swart (Team Houston).

I am excited to see this year's competition. Last year there was an infamous battle in the 85kg/94kg combined A session, with Jared Fleming (East Coast Gold) winning with a Junior American record 190kg clean and jerk over North and Sabatini while Zach Krych at 85kg snuck in at the end making 191kg and winning his class (and also the next!) with his 344kg total.

Last year I had a rough meet, bombing in the snatch but winning the gold in the clean and jerk. I was recovering from a severe groin injury that had put me totally out of commission only a couple months prior, and while I was strong I was not ready for heavy snatches. Since then, however, I have had my longest stretch without any major injuries (a couple minor tweaks, no big deal), and it's definitely showing. While I don't tend to really "test" the snatch and clean and jerk in training, I have hit several training PRs in each and even clean and jerked an all-time best 165kg. There is plenty of room for more weight in both lifts, and while my entry total doesn't reflect it - I rarely bother to make 77kg - I am in this meet with the singular goal of three gold medals! For the first time ever I think I am really ready, and I can win it on my own terms.

See you in Mobile!

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