American Open wrapup

It's a very strange feeling to bomb out.

There's an overwhelming feeling of disbelief. Maybe you feel great; maybe you made every warmup beautifully. You didn't pick too ambitious an opener, but somehow you miss it. Hey, it happens sometimes, and it's not like the weight felt too heavy.

You wait for the other people doing the same weight; several minutes go by. When it's your turn, your coach gives you some small pointers, and feeling confident you step up to the platform. And miss again.

Now things are a bit desperate. But you are a good competitor, and you don't let the necessity of the lift bother you. You've never bombed out; the weight is light, no problem! The tenseness of your coaches doesn't go unnoticed, but you shrug it off anyway. You're going to make this lift; you couldn't possibly bomb. Now there are only a couple people still doing this weight, so you don't have to wait too long. The announcer hypes up the crowd who begins to yell encouragement, much more than on any of your other attempts. You put your hands around the bar, step your feet into position, and go: back tight, big pull. The weight is up and overhead, it's there!

But the bar is slowly drifting backwards. Hell no you're not giving up, so you strain, push, and fight your way to stay under it. You're starting to stand up, but you feel the bar moving just a bit too much, and then it's gone.

This can't be. You don't even understand. But.. it felt so easy! You look out at the crowd, unfocused, not seeing anything. You look at your coach, and you try to communicate that you don't know why this happened. This wasn't how it was supposed to go.

That was me this Saturday, lifting at the top end of the 77kg A (and 85kg B) session. I wanted to win; I was ready to snatch well, maybe not perfectly, but at least two out of three. I warmed up: 40kg, 70kg 90kg, 105kg, 115kg, no problem. 120kg was such a small jump, it should have been an easy opener. And it was, but I did what I never do in training when I combined my adrenaline-fueled power with a timing misfire and swung the bar behind me. Well, fine, so maybe I wouldn't hit a PR that day, but surely I could fix the technique and make it the second time. But the overcompensation left the bar out front, so I only had one shot to even stay in the competition. I knew that I was most likely going to make this lift, and I just needed to put together what I did on the last two lifts. And even though it wasn't quite as far behind, my adrenaline still overcame my technique, and it was over.

Well, no, it wasn't. So I wouldn't win, big deal: that's a relatively unimportant goal in this meet. I really wanted to make Pan Americans, but it wasn't in my reach anyway. I wanted to hit PRs, but I just came off of a major groin injury and have only just reached maybe 95% strength. There's nothing to be upset about, and the meet isn't over. Yeah, so I wanted a medal, but this isn't Nationals, and this won't end up counting for much anyway. And I can still win something; clean and jerks are next.

Nobody needed to tell me all that. Christy came back to check on me, but I was fine, already resting in preparation. They started me light at 145kg, the lower end of what I assumed I would open with. Cleans especially are more forgiving, and my jerk technique has probably improved the most during my injury. First attempt, no problem, I was back in competition. My coaches looked at my previous national meet PR (150kg at Nationals) and the other lifters to try and edge my way in to a medal. They put in 151kg, one kilo ahead of the attempts for Mike Cerbus and Mat Fraser (my new teammate!). Mike made his 150kg opener, but Mat couldn't make his second attempt. There was a lifter in the B session, Mike Martin, who appeared out of nowhere and already pulled out 128kg/157kg, so when I made my second attempt I already had the bronze-medal c&j. Despite his miss, Mat had moved up to 155kg, and Mike jumped to 158kg. So we put in 156kg; if Mat made his lift, then I could still beat him. But when he missed and I already had it locked up, an upgrade was in order, so we bumped the weight to 157kg to beat Mike Martin on bodyweight.

It wasn't perfect, but it didn't have to be as I locked out 157kg overhead and held it until I was motionless for plenty longer than necessary. I was currently in the lead, and silver was guaranteed. And so I hugged and lifted Leo and Ellyn off the ground in turn (neither of whom feel all that heavy). I was so excited about my clean and jerks that I barely even noticed Mike miss both attempts at 158kg. And so, after disqualifying myself from the snatch and total, I received one more upgrade and brought home my first ever national-level gold medal.

Historically the American Open has not been a good meet for me. The first time, in 2007, I failed to make even the qualifying total after I couldn't hold on to a 139kg jerk. In 2008 I made only one snatch and almost passed out after my second clean. In 2009 I missed both openers and again only three lifts total. But it's hard to imagine that I bombed out but am still so excited. My weight cutting was easier than ever with no obvious side effects. My technique looked much better than at any previous meet. The weight was clearly much easier. I have shown I am one of the top 77kg lifters and a medal contender at any meet in the U.S.

For the rest of our team, it was a tumultuous and crazy meet. Hilary Katzenmeier beat out Sarah Davis for the 53kg women's gold. Rizelyx Rivera had a rough go with her jerks and couldn't stay in the competition to beat Amanda Sandoval (nee Hubbard) in the 58kg class. Veronica Aguila in the 63kg class is the only girl I know who could go six for six and be disappointed. Also in the 63kg class, Cara Van Dorn and Patty Maizels found in their first AO experiences that good lifts are hard to come by. Chris Yorkowitz, commonly a medalist, found himself in an abnormally full 69kg weight class and had to settle for 7th. Phil Sabatini, the 94kg winner of the last Nationals and American Open, hit PRs but still lost to his arch rival Jonathan North, and still both of them lost to our younger teammate Jared Fleming, who, in the meet of his life, went six for six and broke the junior clean and jerk record twice with a ridiculous 190kg. And though his class was relatively weak (sorry, buddy, but you got beat by 94's AND multiple 85 guys), Garrett Walters won the 105kg class with his five-for-six 314kg total. There were many more, as we had a huge contingent, and though I haven't seen the team placings yet I'm sure we had a good showing.

As for me, it's back to the training hall. After a bit of recovery and a relatively relaxed December I'll be in full force, spending extra time on technique. With more time snatching and some new jerk exercises there is room for some serious improvement in my numbers now that I'm healed. I may not have totaled 300kg in 2010, but I definitely got myself to the point where I could have.

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