Jeane Lassen is getting closer to her Olympic dream, one kilogram at a time.
Last week, the Whitehorse native posted her best international results to date, at the World Weightlifting Championships in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, winning a bronze in the total score, and silver in the clean and jerk.
Lassen even surprised herself with the podium-worthy performance.
“I was thinking this year’s competition would be much stronger — it’s an Olympic qualifier,” said Lassen from Montreal, where she trains.
She finished fifth at last year’s Worlds in Qatar, which she said was much less competitive.
“It was a post-Olympic year, so a lot of the world champions weren’t there, they were taking time off.”
Although she anticipated a medal in the clean and jerk, the bronze in total score was unexpected.
“My goal was to stay in the top six,” she said.
Her 136-kilogram lift won her the silver in the clean and jerk; the Russian gold medallist lifted 140 — but Lassen was already done lifting at that point. “Unfortunately, you don’t know any of that until it’s over,” she said. “It’s very strategic; it’s important to have a coach that knows what’s going on.
“It’s advantageous to lift last, but it means you have to start heavier – it’s a lot like high jump, the bar always goes up, but you get only three attempts in total.
“If you go too light, you’re stuck, but if you go too heavy and miss, you have no result at all.”
Canada’s first total-score medal performance in 17 years bodes well for Lassen and the entire Canadian women’s weightlifting team.
“It’s fantastic for her as an athlete, for the sport and the country, the silver is fantastic, but the bronze in the total is the real clincher” said Jeane’s mother Moira Lassen.
“It means more government support and perhaps some sponsorship money.”
Moira was also on hand at the Worlds, “wearing many hats, as always.” Moira represented the Canadian weightlifting federation and worked as a technical controller during the competition.
“Once you’ve crossed over that threshold, portions of life become slightly easier, the rest of the world sees that you’re a contender,” said Moira of her daughter’s success.
“Because of that you get invited to certain things — the day she won her medal she was approached by France to do a grand prix in January — since then, there have been other invitations to training camps and other grand prix events.”
It’s hard to imagine a packed house, with big prize money, for a sport that slips under the radar for most North American sports fans.
“In Asia and the former Eastern Bloc countries, it’s like hockey for us; their lifters are like Wayne Gretzky,” said Moira.
It’s a great start for Lassen.
As the 2006/2007 season starts, it was the first major competition since the Canadian championships in May.
Fellow Whitehorse weightlifter Emily Quarton finished 21st in the 58-kilogram — which is the most competitive weight class, according to Lassen.
A great result in her first World Championships.
“Both of us have had a lot of changes this year in our training; we switched clubs, and it’s definitely helped our performance,” said Lassen. “Emily did her best performance ever at an international competition, which is rare.”
One in 10 athletes do their best in competition; best lifts usually happen in training, according to Lassen.
Both lifters are now preparing for the Pan Am games in July. Before that, they have the Quebec championships on October 28th, and Lassen’s confident the Whitehorse duo will do well.
“We’re both ranked first in our weight class,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lassen is happy to be another step closer to Beijing in 2008.
Canada has sent just one female weightlifter to the Athens and Atlanta Games.
Lassen’s result means the Canadian team will likely grow.
“It means, possibly, two or more girls at the Olympics,” said Lassen. “For me, that means I have a good chance of fulfilling my Olympic dream; you never know, I might even have a chance for a medal.”