Originally Posted by BendtheBar
I assume the Kenyans as a country are very passionate about running and take great pride in their success...
^^^ This. Besides, I would imagine it would be very difficult for the average Kenyan to find a decent gym and coach to start lifting competitively. I know from first hand experience that this is the case, especially with the small towns in India, and I can very well imagine that the situation in Kenya would be the same.
They have been successful at a sport (running) that requires bare minimal equipment, and because of their past success, have some infrastructure in place to support the budding athletes.
In the poorer countries, getting in two square meals a day is a struggle for the vast majority of the population. This precludes most of the talent there from a decent nutrition, without which you can go only so far, especially in the international level. Given the socio-economic situation, most of the population in a poorer country is concerned with fending for themselves and their families than take up sports, which require a huge time commitment before you start making enough money from it. Getting an education and finding a 8-5 job that pays the bills is what people look in these places. Is it a surprise, that in almost any sport requiring decent infrastructure, it is only the countries with a decent level of development who do well? There is a good reason why the ancient Romans looked at sports as a measure of development of a country.
Besides, US didn't always suck at Olympic lifting
. The likes of Tommy Kono, Paul Anderson and Norbert Schemansky were Americans who won multiple medals in the Olympics. I agree with whoever said that a shift in interest to other sports (that pay much better and are more popular with spectators) was responsible.
I have seen this happen in India in case of field hockey. About the time when US was a strong force in Olympic weightlifting, the Indian hockey squad was dominating the international scene too. Just as a shift of interest to NFL, powerlifting etc led to a decline in Olympic weightlifting, a shift to cricket.
Cricket is a sport that is big in only about 9-10 countries or so - India, Pakistan, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies (the Caribbean countries come together to make a single team), Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. Yet, India is the biggest money spinner, with the highest paid players. Lo and behold, the Indian cricket team took rapid strides forward while the Indian field hockey team fell way behind the international competition.
Athletes good at one sport, are often good at a number of other sports. But when one particular sport becomes attractive, the best talent is attracted there, thereby bringing down the level of talent available to the other sports.