Sorry it has been so long since my last update. The offseason starts to gear up around April, and I was getting evaluated at the nationals and the offseason kick-off was in June, so I have just had a ton on my plate.
I took three athletes to the Nationals and they won two silver medals and the third placed in the top 10 in the country. It was a great feeling, but what I am most proud about as a coach is my athletes left it all on the platform. We made no excuses even though we have many! They gave it their all and I am very proud of them all.
Mark Bui finished second in the 56kg class in a battle for the gold. He went 85x, 85, 90x, in the snatch and 110, 115x, 115x in the clean and jerk. Maya Laylor finished second in the 75kg class with 90, 92x, 94x in the snatch and 105, 110,117x in the clean and jerk. We decided to open light in the clean & jerk to secure the silver medal due to the fact her menstrual cycle came on the morning of the competition, which sapped her leg strength. Mike Lee in the 69kg class went 100, 105, 110x in the snatch and 122, 125x, 125x in the clean and jerk.
Let me just say Mark and Mike almost gave me a heart attack as they both were fighting leg cramps after the snatch going into the clean and jerk. The fact that they didn’t bomb out and were able to keep their focus and dig deep to total and to fight for the gold in Mark’s case was amazing. I was so proud! This kind of thing is what weightlifting is all about. Weightlifting teaches you so much about competition and about life. You could be in the best shape of your life and preparations may look great, as they did in our case leading up to this event. Even still, at the last moment with no warning things can go sideways.
We were looking STRONG going into the Nationals. We where looking to bring home at least one gold and quite possibly two. Based on the weights he was hitting in his training, Mark was for sure going take home gold. Then he ran into Matt Darsigny, a fierce up and coming competitor, said not so fast! Matt was hot, he was pushing Mark to the limit and not missing any lifts. It was a great battle to watch! Not only did Mark have to deal with Matt, he had to deal with the cramps I mentioned earlier. His legs started to seize up after the snatch, which sapped his energy for the 110kg clean & jerk he needed to win the gold, which he unfortunately missed twice. Under normal circumstances I’m sure Mark would have been successful with 115kg. But as I said, he fought his heart out and I am proud.
Mike was ready for a 115-117 kg snatch and a 130- 132 kg clean and jerk, which would have put him just outside the medals. Yes, he was looking that strong! However, when he was warming up for the snatch something didn’t look right, so I decided he would open at 100 kg. Mike was not happy about this, but I am the coach and it’s my call. I see what I see and I trust what I see. The 100kg opener was good and he seemed to wake up after that. Unfortunately, there was a log jam at 105 so it was a long wait before his attempt at 105kg, which he made easily, but then he missed his attempt at 110kg. Then guess what happened? Yep, you guessed it, he started to cramp as well!
Despite the leg cramps, Mike had no choice but to turn around and go back out for his clean & jerk, which was relatively low compared to the other competitors. We set it at 115kg but the plan was to move up to 120 – 125 depending on how he was looking in the warm up. Well, that plan went right out the door, and the goal at that point was for him just to total! Especially since I am getting evaluated for my Level 2 coaching certification! If he doesn’t total I fail! This can’t be happing to us after all his hard work and my two years of hard work on in class and out of class assignments and in the gym, getting two lifters to qualify for their first nationals. Are you telling me I have to do this all over again? I would have to find a brand new lifter and coach them all the way to their first nationals! You can’t use the same athlete again – once an athlete qualifies you can’t use them for evaluation again!
All this was going through my mind as I was watching Mike limp around, his legs shaking. When I heard his name called to the platform we only had 70kg on the bar!!! I had no choice but to bump him up to 120kg to buy us some time in the warm up. He went 70, 90, 100,110X – yes he missed a 110kg warm-up attempt! This was not good as he was opening at 122kg, as I had to move him up a couple more times to buy us some extra time. The evaluator was watching everything and taking notes, but I couldn’t pay that any mind, we just had to do what we could and pray for the best! Pray and pray I did but when Mike approached the bar I can see his legs were still shaking. Even so, he pulled the weight and some how got underneath the bar and stood up with one of the hardest cleans I’ve ever seen him do. If you know Mike normally if he cleans it a weight he stands up with ease. But his legs were shot and there was no way in hell he was going to jerk it. I knew we only had one shot and one shot only, after this he would be finished as he would have nothing left in the tank. If this occurred, I would not be certified at the National Level, and my dreams of coaching on a national team would likely have to wait for two more years. Then Mike did the unthinkable – HE JERKED THE WEIGHT! HE JERKED IT! This meant he totaled and I was eligible to pass my certification! I was tempted to give him a big kiss, but I settled for a big bear hug instead!! Talk about excitement! Coaches who knew I was being evaluated shook my hand and congratulated me. It was funny because before then I felt like an outsider – what does this coach who trains hockey players know about weightlifting? At that moment I was accepted and it was a good feeling.
Maya was in the last competition on the last day. I was excited because I could be more involved since I was certified at the national level now. She was looking very strong leading up to the meet so I was expecting some big numbers and a battle between her and Kristel. The plan was for Maya to get ahead of Kristel in the snatch, which would give Maya a chance to win. Kristel has a big clean and jerk and if you don’t finish the snatch with a decent lead it is pretty much over when it comes to the clean and jerk. Maya started warming up and Alex Varbanov (the head coach) and I were watching her and something looked off. I could not put my finger on it, but she looked a little slower, a little sluggish, not as crisp as I would expect. I was thinking maybe its just nerves. But as I said before, I see what I see and I trust what I see.
The plan was to open at 92kg, then go 95kg, then 97kg. Given what I saw in the warm-ups, I dropped her opener to 90kg. Alex wanted her to open even lighter as she missed 90kg in her warm-up. However, I know my daughter and if she opened at anything less than 90kg she would be furious. So 90kg it was and she smoked it. We went to 92kg and she had it, but then it was like she let it go, it just fell behind her head. Dismissing this miss, we went to 94, confident she had it, and the same thing happened! This time it was evident she had it, I was losing my mind!!! What the hell is going on? So I asked her during the break before the clean and jerk and she dropped the bomb – her menstrual cycle had just come on. No way, you have to be kidding me!! Of all the days, today? Oh my gosh, what next?
We had no choice but to lower her planned attempts in the clean & jerk from 112, 117, and 120 or 122. She did 120kg a couple weeks ago so she was ready. So I spoke with Varbanov and we made the decision for her to open at 105kg, which she smoked. She was pretty angry now. We went to 110kg and she smoked that too. Then she said enough of this shit she wants 116kg minimum, so we gave her 117. She cleaned it and then jerked it, but she jerked it so hard and with such anger she popped her elbow. She tore her ulna collateral ligament. At the time I didn’t think it was that bad because she is double jointed at the elbow, but the surgeon diagnosed it as very bad and she may need surgey so she would be out for a minimum of 6 months, as the number one goal is for her to heal properly.
So yes, weightlifting is like life you never know what to expect. All you can do is push on and hope for the best, expect the unexpected, and stay positive no matter the circumstances. Train Hard, Work Hard and have a Positive Mindset. I love sport, I love weightlifting and I love coaching. I am blessed.