The Olympics is in August 2016, 9 months away. There are 10 International Weightlifting Federation Olympic Qualifiers left -- ANYTHING can and Will Happen.
Our qualification systems are not much different than what we did in the 1990’s.
Getting to the Sarah Robles controversy and why our rules caused it
One thing I learned at MIT, is that most rules are guidelines, and the key to life is understanding when a rule is really a rule. Having special “trials sessions” is probably going to fall into the guidelines area. We should accept totals from any drug tested meet to pick teams. Adding tricky little nuances will just lead to disputes over interpretation, so keep it simple.
2. Change the qualification mechanisms to Account for the unprecedented depth in each weight class
When there are only 1 or 2 people per weight class that have a good chance at making a team, its probably ok to have one qualifier followed by a hastily announced second qualifier, because you have a tiny pool of athletes and the secondary qualifier is really just for someone who bombed out or had a bad day at the first qualifier.
When you have 3 or more people per weight class who could actually qualify for a team, then things are really interesting. Having additional qualifiers means those people lurking on the podium in second or third position, might just need another peak in their cycle to eclipse who is on top. This will in turn drive competitive results up.
As I have written at length before, other countries which have had more success in weightlifting than the USA in the last 20 years have a completely different outlook on qualifying for National Teams.
2a. The formal method
For example, in Colombia, lifters are chosen from a mixture of results at national competitions and training results.
Lifters must compete at national championships. There are tests at the site of the national team training camp. Lifters can show-up at the national team training camps and vy for a spot on the team
The teams for international competitions are not chosen until the very last minute. Lifters are chosen based on their performance at training camps right before the major championship.
2b. The lifter pool method
Countries like Kazakhstan have pools of lifters training with different teams. Athletes can make teams based on either controlled workouts (tests) at the training camps. Or, athletes who train with less prestigious teams can be selected form their results at national competitions. Note, the athletes at the more prestigious training sites may not have to compete at a national competition at all as their training is so closely monitored and they are regularly tested.
2c. What might actually work in the USA
Because weightlifters do not receive a salary to train in weightlifting (as lifters do in places like Colombia or Kazakhstan), selecting athletes from just training camps might not work. what might work are frequent drug-tested events. For example, we could hold 2 events per quarter AND make them open to anyone who posts a qualifying total at a USAW sanctioned meet.
We need to understand that totals rise and fall on a predictable cycle. In a 4 year Olympic cycle, the highest totals are seen the year before the Olympics. The Olympics is actually about as competitive as year 2 in the "quadrennium" because the number of entries are limited.
For example, if Sarah Robles is able to hit Cheryl Haworth level numbers or more, then she might have a real chance of medaling in 75+kg as that would put her in the top end of the 75+ distribution (I think she can do it with her new coach ;). Our other supers, would not be high enough in the distribution to medal ( unless they have big PR's this year ...you never know ...don't count anyone out?).
4. Announce things months ahead of time
Make a calendar at the beginning of the year an stick with it.
Any weightlifter on a real training program will train in 12 week cycles. they will peak every 3-4 weeks. In effect, timing of events are critical so cycles can be planned. This would give athletes the option to pick which qualifiers to go to , including skipping the first qualifier to go to the secondary qualifier.
Again, to be fair to all lifters, and not just those who are "in the know" of USAW gossip, the national calendar needs to be published at least 3 months in advance and easily accessible to anyone with a USAW #.