As 2016 comes to a close and another American Open concludes, there is much that could be said about this year in American weightlifting and our nation’s final event of the year. The state of American weightlifting has made humongous strides not only in the last four years but over the last decade as well. Our national meets now boast over 500 competitors every single time we host one. Our country managed to snag a medal at the Olympic Games in Rio. Our Youth and Junior lifters are breaking national and international records with regularity. No longer do our meets consist of 15 total sessions but instead four or five sessions potentially per weight class. A new weight class has been afforded to women, ensuring equality for both male and female. The internal competitiveness of each weight class is increasing, and while that may not have yet created higher totals at the top (there are still many old American records that stand), competition inevitably creates growth. American weightlifting has made some massive strides this year, this quad, and this decade.
The Power and Grace Performance Team met almost all of our expectations at this year’s American Open. While not fielding a full team, we managed no bomb outs and our entire women’s team walked away with a record of some sort in competition, a medal of some sort, and some got both. I could not be more proud of the effort and daily accumulation of work. They are all only getting better and I expect the trend we set in this meet to continue for years.
Here’s how they did overall:
Meghan Valentine 53kg | 66/81/147
Meet PR for Snatch and Clean & Jerk
Sarabeth Phillips 58kg | 84/103/187
Bronze Medal Overall
Bronze Medal Clean & Jerk
Bronze Medal Snatch
Jourdan Delacruz 53kg | 77/97/174
Silver Medal Overall
Silver Medal Clean & Jerk
Junior American Record Clean & Jerk
Meet PR in Clean & Jerk
Bronze Medal Snatch
Jessica Mounce 69kg | 83/109/192
Meet PR for Snatch, Clean & Jerk, and Total
8th Place Overall
Cherisse 69kg | 80/90/170
Tied Meet PR
On a personal note, this is the 10 year reunion of my very first American Open. The 2006 competition was held in Birmingham, Alabama and I was a freshman in college. I remember making the drive from Young Harris, Georgia, cutting more weight than I should have had to at 5’10”, and stepping on the platform for the first time with the “real lifters.” I totaled 184kg that year with an 84kg snatch and a 100kg clean and jerk. I left Birmingham extremely proud of myself. I remember driving back to Young Harris that evening wondering if there would ever be a day when I’d be able to lift the kinds of weights that would put me in the top five. I remember watching guys like Henry Brower, Derrick Johnson, Aaron Adams, Jake Johnson, and Chandler Alford and wondered if I’d ever have a chance at those kinds of weights.
Fast forward to four years ago, and much of that work and monotonous grind finally came to fruition as I took my very first gold medal at the 2012 American Open in Palm Springs, California. This year is the four-year anniversary of that, my first national medal. Do yourself a favor and don’t go back and look at those pictures. Emaciated may be the keyword for defining that win. However, here I sit after the 2016 American Open, closer to my ideal body weight, with a personal record total of 295kg.
This sport can be one of the most mentally debilitating and discouraging sports in the world. Everyday is more of the same. Everyday is more of the same aches and more of the same pains and more of the same monotonous work. The deep dark doldrums of training can weigh on you. Hours and hours of training, often by yourself, just for 30 seconds of “fun” in the spotlight. It would be easy to lose heart; in some sense it would be understandable to quit. It’s easy to justify a better use of your time. That would have been easy for me in the years leading into this one. Family, job, my athletes; these are all right and good reasons to ease up on the gas pedal and justify less work or foregoing a competition.
However, that’s not how weightlifting works. It doesn’t always have to be pretty and it doesn’t always have to be perfectly programmed, but it always has to be work. I said this in my Instagram post following a five for six performance, that this sport is not about the next six months or even the next year; this sport is about the day in and day out effort over a decade. When I first picked up a barbell my best snatch was 43 kg and my best clean and jerk was 62 kg. I know those numbers because I only had pounds and it was 95 pounds and 135 pounds. 18 years later I’m still struggling for 1 kg at a time, but 1 kg at a time over decades builds totals. 99.9% of the athletes in the sport are not CJ Cummings or Harrison Maurus or Haley Reichardt. The majority of us must work day in and day out for decades to ever get a shot at a podium. That’s why the sport is so hard. It takes a long-term plan and a far-sighted view of training.
For the normal lifters like me, the ones who watch all of the best and wonder if they ever could even deadlift that snatch: keep working. Be smart, train hard, but remember this sport is about longevity and endurance, not your performance tomorrow. It’s not the accumulation of hours tomorrow or this week, it’s accumulation of consistent, sustainable work for years and years that produces results. Be encouraged that your work is not worthless and your training is not without reward. If somebody told me in 2006 then I’d take a crack at a 300 total (a total that I saw Chandler Alford hit a 2008 Olympic trials and thought was unachievable), I would have laughed at you. Don’t laugh, don’t be
discouraged; just work.