Hampton Morris is seeking a place on the IWF Athletes' Commission as well as an Olympic berth ©Hampton Morris

When Hampton Morris begins his quest to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in his "home away from home" in Colombia next week he will look beyond setting yet another world record.

Morris has two tasks in Bogotá: to put in a good performance at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships, the first qualifying event for Paris, and to gain enough votes for a seat on the new IWF Athletes' Commission.

He has won world titles at youth and junior level in the 61 kilograms category, setting multiple world records along the way, and his ever-improving numbers make that first target more likelihood than possibility.

If he succeeds in the elections - all attending athletes can post their votes between 9am on Monday (December 5) and 3pm on December 16, the last day of competition - Morris would be the youngest male on the Athletes' Commission at 18, the minimum age for candidates.

Morris and Jessica Lucero, who retired in 2020 after a long career representing the US, were encouraged to stand by two senior leaders at USA Weightlifting (USAW), chair Paula Aranda and general secretary Ursula Papandrea, who is first vice-president of the IWF.

"It seemed like a good opportunity to be involved in governance, to help better the sport as a whole," said Morris, who represents athletes on the weightlifting body in his home state, Georgia.

"I couldn’t see any downside to being a candidate."

Hampton Morris, third left, was given his medals at the Pan American Championships by USA Weightlifting general secretary Ursula Papandrea, far left ©Hampton Morris
Hampton Morris, third left, was given his medals at the Pan American Championships by USA Weightlifting general secretary Ursula Papandrea, far left ©Hampton Morris

Morris - whose rivals for the men's seat from pan-American nations are Keydomar Vallenilla from Venezuela and Zacarias Bonnat from the Dominican Republic, both silver medallists at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year - is clear on what his priorities will be if he is elected.

"The number one point, definitely, is helping to ensure that weightlifting stays an Olympic sport," he said.

Weightlifting has been dropped from the schedule for Los Angeles 2028 and there will be no going back on that decision by the International Olympic Committee unless the IWF shows clear signs of "a culture change" in the way the sport is governed.

One of the Asian candidates, the Qatari Olympic champion Meso Hassona, has spoken of improving conditions and making life easier for athletes at competitions - travel, accommodation, training facilities and so on.

Morris agrees that is a good idea, although he does not let it affect his performance.

"I try not to think about what could be better while I’m competing," he said.

"One thing I'd like to change, to be better, is the event calendar for international competitions.

"It should be finalised more in advance."

Next year's calendar on the IWF website lists its three World Championships for youths, juniors and seniors as "to be confirmed" between January 1 and December 31.

There are good reasons for that, concerning changes to the Paris 2024 qualifying programme that will be voted on at a Special Congress in Bogotá on Sunday, but as Morris said, "We’re going into 2023 and we don’t really know what the schedule is.

"It would be very useful to know that."

Weightlifting has been left off the provisional programme for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics ©Getty Images
Weightlifting has been left off the provisional programme for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics ©Getty Images

His schedule over the past two years has taken Morris to Saudi Arabia, Greece, and several times to Latin America, to the extent that he regards Colombia as his "home away from home".

"I think this will be the sixth or seventh time I’ve travelled to Colombia," he said.

"I always enjoy it, the weightlifting community there is a lot of fun."

Morris takes an interest in the countries he visits, to such a degree that he prepared for championships in Greece and Ecuador by learning a few lines of Greek and Spanish, and has also started to study French "in case I make it to the Olympic Games".

He is taking nothing for granted on that front, and says it is "surreal" that he is at this level and in with a chance.

He can get by in Spanish now, and although he learned only a few lines of Greek it was enough to surprise Pyrros Dimas, the USAW technical director who won three Olympic gold medals for Greece.

Arabic was a little too daunting for his visit to Saudi Arabia, where Morris won the youth world title just over a year ago.

For that event, Morris had a lot of support from afar, not that he knew anything about it until his younger sister told him.

He would talk about his upcoming trips to his teachers and one of them sent the livestream link for coverage of the Youth World Championships to everyone in school.

"My sister told me that half the school watched it and were all shouting 'USA! USA!'

"That was fun to hear about."

For now, school is on hold.

Hampton Morris is trained by father Tripp ©Hampton Morris
Hampton Morris is trained by father Tripp ©Hampton Morris

"I decided to take a couple of gap years to focus on training and try to make the Olympic team," said Morris, who graduated in May and has since trained six days a week.

"On my rest day I have physical therapy appointments, mostly for injury prevention and general readiness.

"The day after rest is day is fairly easy and the day after that is my heavy max-out day.

"The other days are normal workload."

This schedule, and a recovery programme, were designed by Morris' "coach, psychologist and nutritionist", his father Tripp - a soccer coach who taught himself.

"I programme recovery, a long list of things to do like taking a walk, a sauna, naps, meditation," Tripp said on a USAW podcast.

"An afternoon walk can work like magic.

"This is super-important - I don’t know that we’d have got through the teenage years without the recovery work."

Both father and son are very systematic in all they do, and Tripp acknowledges that his son has made sacrifices for his sport.

"It was hard for me to find a balance," said Morris.

"I did well at school and in weightlifting, and didn’t get much socialisation outside school.

"I didn’t even have time to learn to drive, which is something I’m working on now."

He started out as a full-back and winger in soccer but has focused on weightlifting since a hugely successful first national meet in 2017, in his home city of Atlanta.

"It was the youth nationals and I swept the medals in my class, set national records, got the technical award, and was less than one Sinclair point off being best under-13 lifter.

"That really solidified my interest in weightlifting… and I wasn’t all that good at soccer anyway."

Hampton Morris with sister Etta, left, and mother Anne Marie, right after graduating  ©Hampton Morris
Hampton Morris with sister Etta, left, and mother Anne Marie, right after graduating ©Hampton Morris

Morris is happy with the athlete-coach family relationship and points out that his fellow Athletes' Commission candidate Hassona is also coached by his father - as were five members of the US team at this year's Junior World Championships.

Tripp said, "I started the conversation but it was his decision and it turned out to be a good thing.

"I’m not sure anyone else would have spent so much time on it.

"He makes a lot of sacrifices, it’s immeasurable what he has given up, what he hasn’t done in terms of diet, of going to the football game because he’s training."

Morris said, "The really big thing dad talks about is doing everything the same way… the way you approach the lift, execute it.

"The goal is always to go six for six and make what I make."

That approach has also been drilled into the US team by Mike Gattone, the national head of coaching.

Morris' first international competition was in June 2018, when he posted a total of 179kg as a 14-year-old in the 50kg category.

Since then his body weight has gone up 11kg and his best total by more than 100kg to 286kg.

His world records are in clean and jerk and total as a youth, and clean and jerk as a junior, and there could be more to come.

Is a 300kg total a realistic target to aim for?

"I did it in training camp in Ohio a couple of months ago, 130 snatch and 170 clean and jerk, although I was a heavier than 61kg at the time," he said.

"It’s definitely achievable - it's just a matter of doing it in competition."

It sounds like there could be more French lessons in store for Hampton Morris.

Zacarias Bonnat is among Hampton Morris' rivals for a place on the IWF Athletes' Commission ©Getty Images
Zacarias Bonnat is among Hampton Morris' rivals for a place on the IWF Athletes' Commission ©Getty Images

Candidates for Athletes' Commission elections (10 to be elected, one male and one female from each of five continental regions) are as follows.

Africa: Male Forrester Osei (Ghana). Female: Mona Pretorius (de Lacey) (South Africa), Marie Ranaivosoa (Mauritius).

Asia: Male Behdad Salimi (Iran), Fares Elbakh (Meso Hassona) (Qatar). Female Hidilyn Diaz (Philippines).

Europe: Male Cyrille Tchatchet (Britain). Female Emily Muskett Godley (Britain), Yasmin Zammit Stevens (Malta), Atenery Hernandez (Spain), Anais Michel (France).

Pan America: Male Zacarias Bonnat (Dominican Republic), Hampton Morris (US), Keydomar Vallenilla (Venezuela). Female Maude Charron (Canada), Alexandra Escobar (Ecuador), Yusleidy Figueroa (Venezuela), Jessica Lucero (US).

Oceania: Male David Liti (New Zealand). Female Megan Signal (New Zealand), Luisa Peters (Cook Islands).