[Note: About a week or so after the 2011 American Open, USAW contacted me, asking for a short write-up of my experiences there. I said I was happy to provide something, so long as I wasn’t being asked to whitewash my time in Mobile and do some sort of soft sell for USAW. But no, I was assured that what they wanted was an honest appraisal. I sent them a draft within a couple days, and since then–mid December–I’ve heard nothing. Perhaps they’re not all that interested in honesty after all, or perhaps it’s just a case of organizational problems. Either scenario seems equally likely. No matter; I sent a revised version to the good folks at www.greatist.com, who were happy to publish it, and the bits that weren’t as relevant to their needs are below.]
Toward the end of my hour-long soak in the Renaissance Hotel’s “hot tub” I began to have serious doubts—later confirmed—about my chances of making weight. For one, the hot tub’s water was somewhere in the range of “tepid” to “cool”, meaning I wasn’t exactly doing a lot of sweating. And the only reason I was in the hot tub in the first place was in the hopes of sweating off a kilo of water. I normally try to avoid hot tubs—petri dishes that they are—but the hotel’s sauna was inoperative, something I only learned an hour and a half before weigh-in.
Checking weight after my epic soak confirmed what I had feared: total weight loss in the hot tub was something like .3 kilos, which you can lose with a good sneeze. By the time the weigh-in hour closed I was still .5 over, despite a last-ditch run to a nearby YMCA, where USAW’s man-about-town Lou Mangiaracina had managed to locate a functioning sauna.
But my trip to Mobile for this year’s American Open was not really about competing, as much as I would have enjoyed doing so. By this point a national weightlifting meet can be enjoyable in its own right, and I was glad to have gone to engage in some coaching, watch a bit of lifting, and catch up with the hoi polloi of USAW. And on a number of fronts this year’s American Open was a well-run show, although with the memory of Council Bluffs still fresh in my mind it probably wasn’t too hard to impress me. But the Renaissance hotel was a fine establishment—sauna issues aside—and the rate provided was more than reasonable. Plus Mobile itself turned out to be a surprisingly decent place to spend an afternoon after you’ve just failed to make weight, or an evening following a day watching lifting. Mobile may not be Chicago or New York, but it had its own charm, and compared to a place like Council Bluffs or Peoria it may as well be the golden age of Imperial Rome. Perhaps most importantly, there was good and reasonably priced food to be found within walking distance of the hotels and venue.
The venue was also done well, although from what I understand the promised “stadium seating” didn’t exactly materialize. But the raised stage did a good job of giving a good view, and from what I hear the platform was far better than the uneven, waxed ballroom-dancing floor they’ve been using for previous national meets.
But as anyone who actually attended the American Open can attest to, all was not well in Mobile. There were some big hits, to be certain, including the food, the city, the venue size, the hotel. But as is often the case in American weightlifting it was in the critical details that the event came up short. The lack of a functioning sauna—or information about alternatives—was only one area where I felt Mobile failed to deliver, and while it wasn’t critical for my own performance that is something that serious competitors rely on. Even more significant—and far more critical, from a logistical and legal standpoint—was the apparent lack of medical staff on hand. There was also the issue of some very last-minute preparations, and were it not for a titanic effort on the part of a few dedicated individuals the opening of the competition on Friday morning would have taken place without a platform.
For some more thoughts on the American Open and the current CrossFit/Olympic Weightlifting scenario being played out, head right over to