For the first time, the Arnold Sports Festival will host trials for a U.S. Olympic team, thanks to the efforts of an organization that was founded in Clintonville and is now based the Northland area.

The men’s and women’s weightlifters who will be representing the United States at the Games in London will be determined during the largest multi-sport event in the country, March 2-4 at the Columbus Convention Center and various other venues.

The Columbus Weightlifting Club, which originated at the Whetstone Recreation Center, made a successful bid to manage not only the Olympic Trials but also the National Weightlifting Championship, which will be held together for the first time.

The local weightlifting organization has operated at the North YMCA off Karl Road for the last five or six years. It runs the Arnold Weightlifting Championships, which were introduced to the event in 2003.

The idea of holding the two normally separate events at the same time and in the same place was put forth by Megan DeFourny of Clintonville during her time as a member of the USA Weightlifting board of directors.

“This year, coming into 2012, they are combining them at my suggestion when I was on the board of USA Weightlifting,” DeFourny said last week. “Given the economy, given that most of these athletes and their families travel at their own expense to most of these meets, I felt it would be fruitful if we could combine these events É It would literally cut their expenses in half.

“I feel by combining the two events, it helped a whole lot of people,” she said.

That includes not only the athletes, some 20 to 25 for the Olympic trials and 200 or so for the U.S. Nationals, but also referees, trainers and officials.

“You’re going to have a very high caliber of lifting throughout those three days,” predicted Columbus Weightlifting Club president Mark Canella, meet director for the weightlifting championships at the sports festival.

“Holding the U.S. Olympic Team Trials during the Arnold Sports Festival will give our athletes the chance to compete in a first-class city in front of tens of thousands of people who come through the venue,” USA Weightlifting CEO John Duff said in a press release posted recently on both the team’s website and that of the Arnold Sports Festival. “Columbus put together an excellent bid proposal and we are looking forward to collaborating with the Greater Columbus Sports Commission and the staff of the Arnold as we select our team for the 2012 Olympic Games.”

In the same press release, Jim Lorimer, co-founder of the Arnold Sports Festival, said those involved are “proud that USA Weightlifting has chosen Columbus, Ohio, and the Arnold Weightlifting Championships to host these two prestigious national competitions.”

His statements were echoed by Linda Shetina Logan, executive director of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.

“Columbus is proud to host the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Weightlifting as part of the Arnold Sports Festival, one of the city’s signature sports weekends,” she said in the release. “Our partnership with the Arnold Sports Festival and the Columbus Weightlifting Club showcases the support of our sports community which, along with our top-notch facilities and the commitment from our entire city, will produce an unparalleled experience for our future Olympians, coaches and fans.”

The Arnold hosted the National Weightlifting Championships in 2008, DeFourny said, which served as a kind of run-up to making a bid for the combined Olympic tryouts and championship event.

“We’ve proven ourselves on several occasions so that when this bid came up, we were now known for running excellent meets on all levels,” DeFourny said.

She pointed out that weightlifting is near and dear to the heart of the event’s namesake, a onetime bodybuilder, action-film star and then governor of California. Arnold Schwarzenegger, even during his time in office, made it a point to be in Columbus for the sports festival that bears his name.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have the trials literally in our backyard,” DeFourny said.

Just how many of the men and women who make the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team get to go to London for the Games won’t be known for some time, according to Columbus Weightlifting Club president Canella.

That’s because qualifying events being held around the world will determine the participants.

“In terms of the number of slots, it’s probably going to be one to three, most likely,” Canella said. “The women have a better shot at getting the three.”

“It should be very interesting to watch it over the next year,” DeFourny said. “Beginning back in 2004, our women’s team has done exceptionally well on an international stage. I think 2012 might be very exciting, especially for the U.S. women’s team.”

Competition will be held in 15 weight categories as part of the Olympic team trials.

“The lifters who lift at these competitions are truly the strongest people on the planet, without any equivocation,” Canella said. “There is no dispute on that. Definitely the strongest, most powerful people on the planet are weightlifters, and have been since the dawn of time.”