The head of USA Weightlifting has never been a weightlifter, but with all the organization has going on these days, he’s doing some heavy lifting now.
USAW CEO Phil Andrews says the organization's post-pandemic plans include working out how to keep everyone across the U.S. engaged with the sport while preparing for three projects: the national championships in Detroit, its first fully in-person event since before the pandemic; the Olympic Games in Tokyo; and its Tokyo Strong: Hawaii operation that includes basing the U.S. Olympic weightlifting in Hawaii.
It also had to relocate September’s North American Open Series 2 event from Calgary to Albuquerque because of uncertainty related to U.S.-Canada border pandemic restrictions.
Now in his eighth year with the NGB, the British native and dual citizen also oversaw a first in March, as the 2021 Nike USA Weightlifting North American Open Series 1 and National University Championships powered by Rogue Fitness were hybrid events; participants could compete both in person and by Zoom. The model worked so well it will be offered at the relocated Albuquerque event, Andrews says.
Connect Sports caught up with Andrews for a brief Q&A amid his packed schedule.
How would you describe the state of weightlifting today?
Weightlifting is in a great position just now. We came away from the pandemic with an exceptionally successful year. As an individual sport that you can keep fit with wherever you are with a few pieces of equipment, we’ve found people are turning to the barbell.
What is the near- and long-term future of USAW?
Near term, we have been focused on having an amazing Olympic Games and using that opportunity to reintroduce the barbell to the American public. Long term, we, of course, have challenges with the International Weightlifting Federation and ensuring weightlifting remains in the games. But as we go into the next quad, we do need to refocus on our grassroots and ensure that as the world reopens people return to pick up a barbell at their local gym.
Do you incorporate weightlifting into your personal fitness?
I have trained a little bit, and do include the Olympic lifts and associated variants in my own fitness training, which saw me drop 60 pounds during COVID-19. The closest I’ve come to a public competition snatch was our #KeepLiftingChallenge campaign, where I could be seen on USA Weightlifting’s Instagram lifting a broom handle and my cat at the beginning of the shutdown as we tried to find a fun way to keep people engaged in the sport while they couldn’t get to their local gym.