On The Bubble: The US Men's Pan-Am Contenders

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Time is running out for the US men’s weightlifting team to earn spots at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Barring the possibility of acquiring another country’s Olympic berths as a result of doping sanctions, Team USA will need to put every last bit of effort into qualifying through the Pan-American Championships in June. It will be their last chance to send a single competitor to Rio.

We’ve already covered the athletes who will compete in the trials session at Nationals, but what about the other contenders? Here are the rest of the top men that will vie for position at Pan-Ams.

Darren Barnes, 56kg


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The 2015 national champion recently put up a 242kg total in Dallas and has a listed best total of 245kg. In the placement calculation, 242kg is projected to place 23rd, while his 245kg is projected at 21st place. If he can improve his personal best by 2kg, that would bump his projection all the way to 19th, which would move his ranking up to sixth on the current Pan-Am team rankings.

Derrick Johnson, 62kg


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A 2015 national champion in the 62kg class, Johnson’s 270kg total from Dallas is his entry total for 2016 Senior Nationals. But his best total is listed at 272kg, which would project him at 21st place. Similar to Barnes, a 2kg PR on his total would bump his projection to 19th, and a 275kg total would project him at 17th to catapult him above Caine Wilkes and James Tatum on the current PanAm ranking list all the way to fourth. Though the performance of those in the special trials session will determine his final placement in the rankings, it would be shocking if that 275kg would not be enough to place him on the Pan-Am team.

Nathan Damron, 85kg


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A junior who has been lighting up the 85kg weight class, Damron’s best reported total of 332kg would have been enough for the silver medal at the 2015 Senior Nationals in Dallas behind Anthony Pomponio. Travis Mash has done a great job with Nathan, and anyone paying attention to social media has witnessed the meteoric rise of this young man with a recent 150kg snatch and 192kg clean-and-jerk in training.

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If he is able to repeat those lifts on the competition platform in Salt Lake City, his 340kg total would put him in 19th place. He would need an incredible 344kg total (5kg more than Pomponio did to win the national championship last year) to bump his projected placement up to 17th and support his bid for a spot on the Pan-Am team.

David Garcia, 105kg


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Within reach of the Pan-Am team, Garcia’s entry total of 370kg already projects him at 19th while his best total of 376kg projects at 15th — this would tie him for third in the Pan-Am team rankings. It is also 99.470% of the next-highest projected total of 378kg, which is higher than Colin Burns' 98.913%. This would give Garcia the tiebreaker for his sole possession of the third-ranked position. Again, he won't know where his total places until after the trials session at the end of the weekend, but simply matching his best total in competition would likely be enough for a Pan-Am spot.

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