Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Politics of Weightlifting

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Those of you who follow this blog know that I normally stay out of the politics of weightlifting. I usually do my own little thing and leave the governance of the sport to people who like that sort of thing. Or at least dislike it less than I do. And when I do feel strongly about something, normally it is only the lifters I coach and a few friends that hear about it.

But I am going to address a current issue publicly now because I think it is important.

The 2013 International Event Qualification Procedures are being voted on by the Board of Directors on Wednesday, January 16th and I have a big disagreement with some of it.

As it stands now, we have several qualification competitions for each international event. The US team for an international event like the World Championships is determined by how athletes do at these qualifying competitions. It is pretty cut and dried, the person who lifts the most wins. Comparing between weight classes is done using a formula that is predetermined. At the end of the last qualifying competition, everyone knows who made the team, and who did not.

That is about to change if the 2013 Qualification Procedures is passed by the Board of Directors in its current form.

The current language allows athletes who have “made” the team via the qualifying competitions, along with athletes who failed to make the team, to all be invited to a training camp at the OTC during the time period between the last qualifier and the competition.

During this training camp, athletes who did not make the team via the qualification competitions can displace athletes who did and take their place on the team. In the event that an athlete is not able to travel to and attend the training camp, he or she can be displaced on the team by an athlete who was able to travel to and attend the camp.

I believe this is discriminatory against athletes who do not live at the OTC, and may not be able to come to the camps to “defend” their place on a team. Most athletes outside of the OTC (and most of the athletes who make international teams do NOT live at the OTC) go to school, or have jobs. Many of these athletes simply cannot drop out of their normal life to go to Colorado Springs for one or two weeks. Most of the coaches of these athletes cannot drop out of their normal lives to go spend time in Colorado Springs. The athletes who do not attend are left without a fair chance to defend the team slot that they have earned through the qualification competitions. Athletes who might be able to attend, but their coach cannot, are also left at a disadvantage when in competition for a team slot with athletes whose coaches can attend.

In addition to that, opening up the qualifying procedures to events outside of open, sanctioned weightlifting competitions also could add a degree of subjectivity to the selection process. Even the best of us can favor individuals we like or are even just more familiar with without being conscious of it. Who are the athletes most likely hurt by any subjectivity that might creep in? Athletes who are not OTC residents, and athletes who might not have a coach that is able to make the trip. The same people who are least likely to be able to attend the camps.

I understand that this language is being inserted to deal with some perceived problems with our present selection process. But there are other ways to fix problems without opening the can of worms that this proposal opens. For instance, some feel that our qualifying meets are too far away from the international competitions. A reasonable solution would be to move the qualifying competitions closer in time to the international competitions, or if that is not possible, introduce another sanctioned competition closer international meet in question.

Whatever we do, let’s keep our qualifying procedures for international competition limited to sanctioned competitions where everyone has an equal chance to compete and win or lose on the platform. Let us NOT introduce procedures that lead to an athletes place of residence, job situation, financial situation, as well as their coaches situation give them an advantage or disadvantage.

Here is the URL for the 2013 International Event Qualification Procedures if you want to read it for yourself.
http://0205632.netsolhost.com/2013USAWInternationalCompetitionReferenceGuideForAthletes1.2.13.pdf

Here are the names and contact info for the Board of Directors. They are meeting Wednesday, January 16. If you agree with me please contact someone on the board, and let them know how you feel.

Name Membership Area Represented E-mail
CJ Bennett Grassroots cjbennettdc@charter.net
Terry Grow Grassroots terrygrow@sbcglobal.net
David Boffa Athlete Rep davidboffa@gmail.com
Ari Sherwin Independent ari@sport-tech.org
Artie Drechsler At Large, Chair wlinfo2@earthlink.net
Ursula Papandrea Technical upapandrea@suddenlink.net
Les Simonton Technical lessimonton@gmail.com
Jennifer Ullman Independent jensullman@gmail.com
Emmy Vargas Athlete Rep / AAC Rep evargas.4.our.usaw@gmail.com
Michael Graber At Large mlgraber62@gmail.com

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Prepare to prepare.

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Juma Ikangaa became a sentimental favorite among fans at the Boston marathon after taking second place 3 years in a row, from 1988 to 1990. In spite of this he is better remembered for the quote “the will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”

The will to prepare. It has become almost a cliche. How many time have you heard a football coach say that championships are won in August?

The will to work hard in the off season, to put forth great effort when no one is looking, when competition is still far off. Yes, it is necessary to have this in order to be the best you can be. But is it really as special as we have come to view it? Is is really deserving of praise? Is it really what sets the great athletes, the winners, apart from those who fade in the heat of competition?

I say, NO. I say that it is not special at all, nor is it sufficient to make you the best that you can be.

Gold’s gyms all over the country are full of teenage boys doing forced reps and drop sets and super sets and whatever other painful routine Joe Weider told them to do not to go to the Olympics, not to win Nationals, but simply to get their pecs a bit more “defined” in a misguided attempt to get laid. They may be misguided, but a lot of them are working pretty damn hard, and for relatively little reward.

Have you seen an aerobics room at a commercial gym lately? I defy you to find me one that does not have 20 or 30 women engaged in some form of self torture. Hours spent daily on masochistic machines like elliptical’s and treadmills, and for what? Once again, not for a gold medal, but simply to fit into a pair of jeans a couple of sizes smaller. It may be misguided, but the amount of work and misery invested for small reward or even no reward is mind boggling.

And then there is CrossFit. Most CrossFitters are not going to the CrossFit games or appearing in magazines or getting sponsored by supplement companies. They are normal folks, with normal lives, normal jobs, kids, and mortgages. And yet there they are, in “boxes” all over the country, pushing themselves through workouts that end in complete exhaustion. Puking, or collapsing on the floor, and for what? Simply to be more fit.

So is the “will to prepare” really going to set you apart from the pack if you are a competitive athlete? I don’t think so. Not when hundreds of thousands of people are at Golds gym or a CrossFit box “preparing” and working their butts off even though they are NOT competitive athletes, are NOT trying to win Nationals or go to the Olympics. Even though they will never make a dime for their efforts, or be on the cover of a magazine, even though the world will never know their name let alone congratulate them or recognize their efforts.

What then, sets apart the competitive athlete who is indeed willing to do anything, pay any price, for victory? Well, it is nothing so easy as simply getting to the gym and putting in your time year round, in season and out of season, when people are watching and even when no one is watching. It is nothing so glamorous as the superhuman efforts you put in while training. Anyone can do that, and almost everyone does that.

No, it is none of that. It is something much harder. You have to prepare to prepare.

That is the hard part. That is the thing most are unwilling to do. What is preparing to prepare? A part of it is simple. Turning off the TV or computer at 10pm 7 days a week to get regular sleep. Taking the extra effort to prepare healthy food instead of stopping for fast food. Saying no to your friends who want to go to the bar, or to a party.

Then there are some things which are not so simple. What do you have to do to live where the best coach is, where the best teammates are? Does this require sacrifices in your job, and your lifestyle? What job fits best with your training schedule? It probably won’t be the highest paying one, or the one with the best future prospects. You might not be able to afford the nicest car, or the newest cell phone.

Does that seem a little extreme? Consider this. Somewhere out there is a guy working a crappy part time job, chosen because it does not interfere with training. He is talking on a 4 year old cell phone and driving a 10 year old car because earning the money for newer, more expensive things would require working more hours and that would interfere with his training. He is going to bed at 10pm every night, hasn’t been to a bar in several years and he trained on Christmas day, and on his birthday. He is busy preparing his meals ahead of time instead of watching “Two and a half men” or some other asinine TV program.

He is doing everything he can OUTSIDE the training hall, to allow himself to prepare harder and more thoroughly INSIDE the training hall. And he is going to be very, very hard for you to beat unless you do the same.