Team USA earns male Olympic slot!

Congratulations are in order to the athletes of the men's Pan American weightlifting team who saved our bid for a male entrant in the upcoming 2012 London Olympics! In the last-chance qualifier, the U.S. team placed fourth out of sixteen teams who had not yet qualified athletes; only the top seven earned a slot (results here). All six point-scoring athletes posted a total and placed seventh or better, which was extremely important because even a single bomb-out would have knocked us out of the running and given our spot to Canada.

In the "news that is not news to anybody" category, Kendrick Farris was selected to represent us at the Olympics based on his total at Senior Nationals which put him well ahead of his competition.

Soon-to-be two-time Olympian Kendrick Farris...
who isn't actually Bobby McFerrin
Kendrick, who placed eighth in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, will join Sarah Robles and Holley Mangold who officially qualified at the Olympic Trials/Nationals earlier in March. Congratulations, Kendrick!

On a personal note, I'd also like to congratulate Mike Cerbus, who stepped up as an alternate to replace the injured Chad Vaughn. Mike responded incredibly under pressure and hit an all-time PR total of 300kg for seventh place in one of the most competitive weight classes in the meet. I consider this a great sign for my own personal promise, as at both last year's Americans and this year's Nationals I had the weights on the bar - and well within my capability - to edge out Mike, which in retrospect would have sent me to Pan Ams, not to mention I already have a 300kg total under my belt. What does that say for next year??

Sarah and Holley celebrate the clinching of their first Olympic berths

A quick OTC trip report

I'd like to thank Zygmunt, Brandon Dyett, and Leo for making my trip to the Olympic Training Center happen last April. The trip was amazing, and I worked my butt off for six straight days; two-a-day sessions plus morning stretch/calisthenics and all the recovery I could fit in. Zygmunt was impressed with my size (first comment: "Oah! Big body!") and strength, but he wasted no time in working on my jerk and then my snatch technique. I took copious notes on everything from technique and exercises to nutrition and cutting weight in the sauna. Overall the visit was very successful, not only in getting focused training and expert coaching, but also in opening opportunities for me to continue to train out there - it was Zygmunt's idea that I come back! The hard part is that life is busy, I have limited vacation time, and flights to Colorado are around $500, so the next trip has not yet been scheduled.

Some observations: my technique, while good at the local level, was clearly well behind the other training center athletes. My snatches swing out in front and I catch them on my toes, and my jerks are soft and slow. There is so much variability and inconsistency in those lifts with me, especially compared to everybody else, that it's clear I have much to improve upon. This is great, because it means I have much more room to push up my numbers. As Zygmunt said repeatedly, "You are so strong; why don't you snatch 150??"

Me with Ugandan Olympic Solidarity lifter Charles Ssekyaaya 
It was also incredible how much more I could train when the stresses of work and daily life were removed. I worked hard to eat healthy and often, to sleep at least eight hours a night and get a short nap in the afternoons, and to use the cold and contrast plunges, pneumatic leg sleeves, and other recovery options. I was admittedly a little disappointed that I didn't see many other athletes at the center take it as seriously. I understand it is hard to do the extra things day-in and day-out, and I believe that is why I will out-gain my peers!

I met some awesome people there, and I was surprised just how well some of us connected. Donovan Ford became something of a mentor minutes after I walked in the door, even though he was sick with the plague. David Garcia was also there as a "training special," and, while technically one of my teammates' major competition, was the friendliest guy imaginable and remarkably bright, further supporting my theory that Olympic lifting draws in more intelligent people. And then there was Charles Ssekyaaya (or just "Charles!"), who was one of the fastest and most powerful lifters I have seen in person. Charles, who is/was only 18 if I recall, was the only person with me at Zygmunt's 7:30am daily "stretching" sessions, and he tells me he had done them consistently ever since he arrived 11 months prior. He also walks around at 64kg and power snatches 100kg from the blocks.

In other news I have been selected for USADA's National Testing Pool, which means I must be considered good enough to be worth spending money on monitoring out of competition. Some people don't like the intrusive requirements (like providing a daily schedule), but I consider it an honor. I am proud to represent my country drug-free!

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