After more than a week of high-octane activity another World Weightlifting Championships has come to an end. The manic pace of trying to catch as many sessions of lifting as possible, all while fulfilling one’s basic food/water/sleep/bathroom requirements, is finally over, and we can all return to whatever horrors await us at home after having ignored our normal responsibilities for eight or ten or more days.
It’s interesting to note how fast things return to normal–whatever that may be–following the championships. The fanfare and intensity of world level weightlifting and record-breaking ends with a speed and abruptness that is almost alarming. Before the lifting was even finished the platforms in the training area were already being broken down, all of them apparently having been sold by Eleiko, and Mike Graber was nowhere to be found.
Back to business as usual. Which for many of the top-level athletes here means, quite simply, more lifting. The particular routines and weights and programs of pre-competition athletes and teams are certainly fascinating enough, but you can learn just as much from seeing who’s in the training hall post-competition. Odds are, the same people you saw on the medal stands and in the top of their classes are going to be the men and women getting back to work immediately following the competition.
Russia’s 63 kilo lifter Svetlana Tsarukaeva, who won gold this year, was back at it just a couple days after her victory. I caught sight of her Thursday afternoon, in the training hall, doing some presses and squats, and maybe some light snatches, as well. It’s hard to remember the details, since I was trying to get through my own workout and was suddenly feeling very self-conscious while lifting a couple platforms across from this pint-sized World Champion. There was also the fear that she might challenge me to some sort of lift-off, in which case I’d have to feign debilitating injury in order to avoid total embarrassment.
On Sunday morning, the final day of the competition, I went back to the training hall for another workout. Some of the girls from the Polish team were there, as were some Egyptians, and Dabaya, and a few others.
These are serious athletes, even if not all of them did as well as Svetlana, or as well as they might have hoped. But this is their way of life, and it’s a life that is as much about the slow, grinding process of training as it is about the competition stage and the trip to Paris or London or wherever.
The US’s performance at the Worlds was, uh, less than ideal, let’s say. Judging from a preliminary glance at the numbers it appears we should get two women’s slots for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and zero men’s slots, which means having to fight for one male spot at the Pan Ams next year. This should be a humbling moment, especially given the extraordinary bravado that is broadcast from many in our sport. At this point we’re starting to look like a group of silly hombres with some very big hats and no cattle at all.
Of course, final placement and team numbers will be a long time coming, as doping controls slowly make their way to completion, a process that will likely take months. But from my perspective–someone in the crowd–it’s hard to look back at the preceding competition and feel in any way good about the current state of American weightlifting on the international stage.
No doubt this is a time for some deep reflection, a time to consider just where we fit in the broader scheme of things, which goes far beyond the world of Facebook and YouTube and GoHeavy. But that’s not our style here in America, and so I doubt that anything will change. No, it’s better to shout loudly, even when it appears we’re currently carrying a very small stick indeed.
Well, at least we still have something none of those other countries have: