Monday, July 30, 2012

Get Some Inspiration (2 Days at the Olympic Weightlifting)

Over the last two days I've been lucky enough to be at the ExCel centre in London watching some of the Olympic lifting at the London 2012 games.

Concentration - you betta believe it!

On Saturday afternoon I saw the 48kg women, where Wang Mingjuan won after snatching 91kg and then getting a 114kg clean and jerk. You don't realise quite how small these women are until you see them in person, one of the Turkish competitors was standing outside of the venue, and at less than 5ft looked tiny, this makes the weights they lift even more impressive. Try snatch grip deadlifting 90kg and then imagine putting that overhead, then remember these women weight a good 25kg less than the average man. See clip here of Wang lifting 114kg

Cool overhead shot of Wang

Its hard to grasp the size of the ExCel venue from the TV coverage. The last weightlifting competition I watched was at Crystal Palace and was in a room that was about the same size as the stage in the ExCel centre, and had about 20 people watching. To say weightlifting is a minority sport would be an understatement, darts has a bigger following. Hopefully, the Olympic games plus the rise in popularity of Olympic weightlifting in gyms around the country will raise the profile of the sport.

Day 1 -ExCel - the stage is bigger than most weightlifting clubs

Hats off to the commentators in the venue, for explaining the rules and the score board to the un-initiated, its much better than the TV commentary in my opinion. And also for building the tension and firing up the crowd, for events that don't have any British competitors.

Most of the crowd, as far as I could tell, based on the people near me and the interviews carried out by the compere didn't know anything about weightlifting. But the atmosphere was fantastic, television coverage doesn't do it justice. This was especially true on day 2 when we were watching the 56kg men and 53kg women. This was the B group, so no one was expecting big lifts. But then, the North Korean guy came out and lifted 168kg in the clean and jerk, breaking the Olympic record, equalling the world record and became one of the few people on earth to lift three times his bodyweight overhead. The crowd raised the roof, and it seemed not even the experienced announcers in the venue were expecting it.

Seeing someone doing this in person is truly amazing and fires you up to go and lift! Most of us would be very happy if we did a three time bodyweight deadlift, and when it comes to squatting, a two time bodyweight squat is mostly what you'll see in your local gym with three times bodyweight squats being very rare. So to see someone lift that over their head on a Sunday morning was exceptional. See clip here of Yun Chul Om lifting 168kg at a bodyweight of 56kg.

Day 2 - 168kg will be lifted in this session and I fail to identify all the flags

The age ranges of the lifters were from 17 years old up to 37. Some lifter were experienced and had been lifting for over twenty years, at the other end of the spectrum Helena Wong has been lifting for a mere 3 years. And even she managed a 61kg snatch and 73kg clean and jerk (at a bodyweight of 53kgs as well ladies, if you weigh about the same, like my girlfriend, then this should inspire you to get lifting!). The winning women in this category clean and jerked 131kg, which is actually more than I can front squat!

Womens weightlifting has only been in the Olympics since 2000, it seems like it should have been in longer. If anything can show women that you can be strong but not big and bulky, it is these women who weigh only 48 or 53kg.

From a technical point of view it was also interesting to see a wide range of lifting styles employed, from narrow stance, normal stance, feet completely externally rotated in the start position, hips low, hips high, split jerk, squat jerk, wide hand position on jerk, normal hand position on jerk and so on. Don't let anyone tell you there is only one way to lift.

Seeing athletes pushing themselves to the limit, and in a large venue with the crowd cheering everyone and the excellent building of tension by the announcers should inspire you to do something...anything!

It doesn't matter whether you're watching weightlifting or fencing or rowing or whatever, it should inspire you to push yourself, to try something new, to get out that comfort zone and be all you can be.

With regards to weightlifting, hopefully as a nation we can capitalise on hosting this games. If it inspired a couple of kids in the audience to try lifting or even a couple of people to go to the gym, then we're on the right track. But British weightlifting need to build on this, the legacy should be coaches, equipment and clubs. Nearly every athlete at the games will use strength and conditioning in their training programs but lifting remains a minority sport. Its one thing to get crossfit clubs getting adults to lift some weights, its another thing entirely to get kids involved in lifting and sport.

Zoe Smith sets new British clean and jerk record today, 121kg at 58kg, 18 years old.

But in the mean time, get inspired. I'm lucky enough to live near the London 2012 venues and to have some live action, if you can't get to a venue, watch it on TV. If you can't do that, then do something, lift some weights, find a lifting club or start you're own, or go outside now and starting running. Just do something goddamitt. Get living!

Julia Rohde - 53kgs bodyweight and can snatch more than me!
(Final note: train travel was well organised, with all staff fully bibbed up at London Bridge and on DLR, and pink signs everywhere, security at ExCel with army etc was smooth, everyone friendly, need to sort out queuing for food, yes there were empty seats, and mainly near the front).

No comments:

Post a Comment