Whitehorse’s Jeane Lassen is lifting weights competitively once again.
Inspired by the spirit of competition she felt as a mission staffer for the Yukon girls’ hockey team at the Canada Winter Games in February, the 30-year-old weightlifter has decided to come out of retirement.
“I didn’t think about it before, but when I was there it was such a positive experience being back in the sports world,” said Lassen. “We had a lot of amazing people come and speak to the girls’ hockey team … Like (Olympic skier) Steve Podborski, who had positive words for the girls, made me think, ‘That’s why I’m involved in sport.’
“The main message everyone was saying was to work your hardest and have fun. So I thought I want to do that again.”
In her first competition since 2009, Lassen won silver in the women’s 75-kilogram division of the Western Canadian Championship in Richmond, BC, on March 26.
Though she remained active in sports after retiring, even playing in the Whitehorse Women’s Hockey League this season, amazingly Lassen only started training three weeks before the competition.
“So it’s off (my best), but for three weeks of training, I came back really fast,” said Lassen. “All the cross-training I’ve been doing, other sports and pilates, I’m pretty confident that if I actually train specifically in weightlifting, I can get it back really fast.”
For the silver, Lassen, who lost to national team member by just four kilograms, lifted 85 kilos in the snatch and 107 in the clean and jerk. (Her personal bests are 110 in snatch and 138 in clean and jerk).
“Our weight class by far had the stiffest competition,” said Lassen. “It was pretty exciting to be in a real competition instead of just showing up, lifting and ignoring the others, (only) going for personal bests.”
When Lassen competed in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, taking eighth, she was the oldest competitor in her weight class. But with some weightlifters peaking in their mid-30s, she is far from over the hill.
“The key is staying injury free for that long,” said Lassen. “I think the fact that I took some time off for a little while will help me with training. I’m a lot more rested than I was in 2008.”
This is not the first time Lassen is making a return to the sport, and if she follows her return with further success, it won’t be a first time for that either.
Suffering from a back injury, Lassen was absent from the sport between 2000 and 2003.
She then returned with a vengeance.
“I never thought I could get back to the level that I did get to, so I kind of know what I need to do,” said Lassen. “I came back in 2003 and just after the 2004 Olympics I was the best in Canada. That’s how much I progressed in one year.
“Now I know more about my body because I’m older and wiser, I know more about sports science than I did back then.”
Things are going to be different this time around. Lassen admits she had the tendency to push herself too hard in training when she was younger, lifting a mindboggling 75,000 kilograms every week, with three training sessions a day.
“I think I was over training and I don’t think I’ll ever do that again,” said Lassen.
“Because I was still able to train, I thought I was doing it right. Because I could still walk up the stairs at the end of the day, I thought I wasn’t overdoing it.
“If I saw somebody doing what I was doing to myself, I’d be like, ‘Back off.’”
Having started lifting competitively in 1995, Lassen’s list of accomplishments is long and impressive. Aside from her eighth-place finish in the 2008 Olympics, 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 medalled at the University World Games a jaw dropping 19 times. She also holds nine Canadian records, including three junior and six senior.
Lassen will be looking to put that record count into double digits at the Canadian Senior Weightlifting Championships over the May long-weekend in Mississauga, Ontario.
“I’ll go for gold if possible,” said Lassen. “I think I can beat the girl that just beat me at westerns.”
If there’s another thing Lassen is going to do differently this time, she’s going to stop and smell the roses a little more often.
“I trained in Rome for five months, but I never made it to the Colosseum,” said Lassen. “I went to Paris and I went to the Eiffel Tower, but I didn’t stand in line because I had to train.
“I never lived in the moment when I was competing.”
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