Weightlifters have curious ways of pumping themselves up before competing. Some close their eyes in quiet meditation. Others cry out for help from God. Holley Mangold, the US women’s superheavyweight for the London Olympics, likes to do a cartwheel before each competition.
“It’s a superstition kind of thing,” she says “It’s part of my routine.”
You only get six lifts, so the weights you pick are crucial. Start too low and the med
als could be out of reach. Start too high and you may crash out without a result.
Imagine one of your competitors is coming in at 150kg so you decide to start at 151. But wait, the other guy just changed to 152. Do you go up to 153, your personal record? Or play it safe and stick to 151, hoping he’ll bomb out at 152? Often, your coach will decide for you.
Svetlana Tsarukaeva of Russia lost this game of chicken in a big way four years ago. Among the medal favourites in the Beijing Olympics, the former arm wrestler put too much weight on the bar for her first lift. After failing all attempts, she was so devastated she missed the exit when she left the platform and walked straight into a wall.
“It was very hard. But what doesn’t kill us strengthens us,” she told World Weightlifting, the official quarterly magazine of the International Weightlifting Federation.
Tsarukaeva bounced back and heads to the London Olympics as the 63kg favourite after becoming world champion last year. Russia has an impressive lineup and should challenge the Chinese in the heavy divisions. China, which won one silver and eight gold medals in Beijing, still dominates the lower weight categories. Kazakhstan has a few gold medal contenders like Ilya Ilin, defending Olympic champion in the men’s 94-kg category, and double world champion Zulfiya Chinshanlo in women’s 53kg class.