WESTWEGO, La. (AP) -- The two biggest wrestlers provided the two biggest moments in the U.S. Olympic weightlifting trials Saturday. The biggest surprise, too.
Cheryl Haworth, the 300-pound queen of American barbells at age 17, had to do little more than show up to gain a chance to become the first American in 40 years to win an Olympic weightlifting gold medal.
What wasn't predicted was 357-pound Shane Hamman, with virtually no international experience, would overtake veterans Tom Gough and Wes Barnett to join 20-year-old Oscar Chaplin III on the men's team.
Hamman, the last lifter of the day, broke American records in the clean and jerk (507 pounds) and total lift (920 1/4 pounds) to move from fourth to second past Gough and Barnett, both of whom missed all three attempts in the snatch.
Hamman gave himself a chance by lifting 413 1/4 pounds in the snatch, in which the barbell is lifted over the head in a single motion. He then broke his own record in the clean and jerk, in which the barbell is raised to the chest and then overhead, by 16 1/2 pounds.
After breaking the record, he dropped to his knees and seemed to kiss the mat. He also waved to the small crowd of less than 1,000 that gave him, by far, the loudest ovation of the day.
Hamman, 28, a former power lifter, had never lifted more than 501 1/2 pounds in practice before breaking the clean and jerk record.
"I had to take advantage of my one moment," Hamman said. "This is the greatest thing that's happened to me in my life. It was my one chance to go to the Olympics, and I wasn't going to let it slip by.
"I knew going up to the bar I was going to make it. I was going to get it no matter what."
Haworth, who hoists the equivalent weight of a F-15 fighter plane during daily 2 1/2-hour workouts, took such a big lead into the trials that she qualified for the first Olympic women's weightlifting competition merely by signing her name.
Lifting a combined weight of 572 pounds as effortlessly as she would an iced tea at her Savannah, Ga., home, she did far more than that.
Despite failing to win a gold medal at the junior world championships earlier this month, Haworth is a threat to win the 230 pounds plus (75 kilograms plus) weight class in Sydney on Sept. 22.
"Now, I'm going to go home and lift my booty off," Haworth said. "I feel pretty confident. A medal is definitely not out of reach."
The United States has not won an Olympic weightlifting medal since 1984 or a gold medal since Charles Vinci in 1960.
Haworth, a high school honors student who passed up an early entry to college to try for Sydney, world champion Agat Wrobel of Poland, Haworth and Meiyan Ding of China are considered the best heavyweight lifters.
While Haworth competes in weightlifting's biggest class -- she is 5-foot-8 and weighs 300 pounds -- 105-pound lightweight Tara Nott of Stilwell, Kansas, secured her spot by impressively hitting all six lifts.
The top four women lifters going the finals all qualified: Haworth, Nott, Robin Goad of Savannah and Cara Heads-Lane of Costa Mesa, Calif. Heads-Lane missed all three attempts in the clean and jerk but held onto the fourth spot.
Goad, a 1994 world champion, hit only two of her six lifts and finished a combined 22 pounds behind Nott, but held onto the third spot.
The 30-year-old Goad began lifting in 1982 at age 12, a year before Haworth was born. She is married to fellow lifter Dean Goad, who did not qualify.
"This just feels right," said Goad, who named her daughter Sydney in honor of the 2000 Games. "I was bad today, but I had a good day before when I needed to have a good day."
The trials in suburban New Orleans were the conclusion to 1 1/2 years of qualifying. Before 1984, trials were the sole criteria. But when 1984 Olympic medal favorite Curt White had a poor trials and didn't make the team, the qualifying procedure was altered to include the combined results of multiple world-class competitions.
Nott set American records at 106 pounds (48kg) by lifting 181 1/2 pounds (82.5 kilograms) in the snatch and a combined weight of 407 pounds (185kg) in the snatch and clean and jerk.
"It was one of those days where everything goes right," said the 28-year-old Nott, an age-group star in gymnastics and soccer before switching to weightlifting in 1995. "This is what you train for. I've always been a competitive person, and I've never been one to be pushed around."
Because they compete at the same weight, either Nott or Goad may move up to 117 pounds (53 kg)at Sydney.
Chaplin, also of Savannah, set a U.S. record of 346 1/2 pounds (157.5 kg) in the snatch, but missed twice at 412 1/2 pounds (187.5 kg) in the clean and jerk. He hit that weight earlier this month in Prague while overshadowing Haworth to become the first American gold medalist in the junior world championships. Haworth won two silver medals and a bronze in Prague.
Gough and Barnett still could reach Sydney if the United States is awarded two more spots before the Games begin. Barnett has nearly lost the sight in one eye since developing cancer in 1998, yet has continued to lift.
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