A year ago, Whitehorse weightlifter Jeane Lassen thought she was finished competing.
Six months after coming out of retirement, the 31-year-old is back among the best in the world and is on track to compete at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Lassen finished 15th in the women’s 75-kilogram division at the 2011 IWF World Championships at Paris Disneyland, France, on Thursday.
“A year ago I wasn’t doing weightlifting at all, and here I am on the world stage,” said Lassen. “So that was pretty awesome. I really had a great time and enjoyed myself. I think the time away really helped me appreciate just how awesome it feels to lift those heavy weights.”
At the championships, which were an Olympic qualifier, Lassen lifted 97 kilograms in the snatch and 123 in the clean and jerk for a total of 220. Surpassing international standards and producing the third best performance of the national team, Lassen currently sits in one of the three spots Canada secured for the London Games. (The final Team Canada roster for the London Games will be decided after the national championships in June.)
“I’m number three right now, so it’s looking pretty good considering I’m not at my best,” said Lassen. “I hope I can improve on what I did in France because it’s quite a bit below my best. If I’m able, with a 220 (kilos) total, to be No. 3, then I should be able to get on the team when I get closer to my best performances.”
Lassen actually tied for the second-highest standing of any Canadian at the championships with Marie-Eve Beauchemin-Nadeau, who finished 15th in the women’s 69-kilogram division. (Canada’s Christine Girard finished seventh in the women’s 63-kilogram division.)
“We have a mathematical formula that basically tries to predict where we’d rank internationally, so technically I’m behind (Beauchemin-Nadeau) even though we had the same ranking,” said Lassen.
If Lassen needs to put a few more kilos on the bar to make London reality, she’s capable of it. Her personal bests are 110 in snatch and 138 in clean and jerk.
“I’m really happy because I just started back,” said Lassen. “This time last year, I had no intention of ever weightlifting again. I had a rough summer, and was able to overcome a lot of obstacles and I was still able to perform well. I did 97 kilos, which is still at the international level. I was able to go out there and lift well under the pressure.”
Lassen retired in 2009 and returned to competition in late-May, coming back as if she never left. With just three weeks of preparation, Lassen won silver at the Western Canadian Championship in Richmond, BC, lifting 85 kilos in the snatch and 107 in the clean and jerk.
She then earned her spot back on the national team and entry to the worlds with a first-place finish at the Blue Mountain Open in Collingwood, Ontario, in August.
Even if last week didn’t go so well, she would still be in the running for London.
Lassen didn’t secure a spot on Canada’s Olympic team for the 2008 Beijing Games in the 2007 World Championships, but still got on the team from later performances, eventually finishing eighth in Beijing.
“People are always like, ‘Are you going to the Olympics?’ But in reality, you don’t know until you’re on the plane,” said Lassen.
Lassen will be back in action this weekend with two goals in mind. A strong finish at the Alberta Weightlifting Championships in Edmonton on Saturday will both help secure an Olympic spot and could get her some funding from Sport Canada.
“The event that qualified me for the world championships unfortunately didn’t count for funding,” said Lassen. “Just like with the Olympics, we need to do two performances to get funding.”
Over her career she has won gold and set a record at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, won bronze at the Pan American Games, won three silvers at the Junior World Championships, and has medaled at the University World Games 19 times. She also has set nine Canadian records, including three junior and six senior.
In fact, last week was her eighth senior world championships and her fourth Olympic qualifier.
“That made me think, ‘No reason to be stressed, I’ve been here before,’” said Lassen. “I think I enjoyed the moment even more. When I was competing, I was really enjoying the fact that I was there.
“We have one minute from when our name is called to when we have to have the weight off the ground. I really lived that whole minute and didn’t try to rush.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com