Memories of Beijing: Lassen recalls more of the Games

Jeane Lassen is going to take it easy for a bit — and who would argue she doesn’t deserve it? The local Olympian has been training for…

Jeane Lassen is going to take it easy for a bit — and who would argue she doesn’t deserve it?

The local Olympian has been training for more than 15 years, since the age of 12.

Now back home in Whitehorse from China, Lassen can reminisce about her time at the Games with complete satisfaction.

In fact, the weightlifter is content with her performance.

“The day of the competition I really felt everything happened for a reason,” said Lassen. “I felt ready and at peace with everything, and just in a good headspace.”

Unfortunately, Lassen, who finished eighth in the woman’s 75-kilogram weightlifting division, does not have much sightseeing to reminisce about.

“The only thing I did as a tourist was go to the Great Wall,” she said. “I didn’t really do anything else, or experience anything else, as a tourist. I’ll have to go back at another time to do that.

“I’m not sure when I would want to go back,” said Lassen. “There’s a lot of places I’ve competed in that I didn’t get to see.”

But Lassen managed to squeeze in some shopping.

After returning, her house looked as if a “bomb went off” because of all the souvenirs she brought back.

Some of the stuff has a special purpose.

As a token of appreciation for her family’s support throughout the years, Lassen brought home watches for them.

“I think everyone in my family has made a lot of sacrifices in order for me to get this far,” she said. “It’s just a small token for them to remember that it’s only because of them that I got so far.”

In the months leading up to the Games, the media and many athletes expressed fear about Beijing’s air quality.

Even though Lassen did not compete outdoors, she still felt an effect from the air pollution.

“The smog is depressing, it’s like the weather we’re having here today,” said Lassen, speaking of Beijing’s air quality during a cloudy day in Whitehorse.

“Everything’s grey, except the visibility is even lower. So you wake up in the morning and there would be no sun and you couldn’t even see the park across the street, basically. It was really bad.

“For me, I found it very hard because it was always dark, there was very little sunlight. When the sun was out, you really went, ‘Holy, look at that, it’s blue.’”

“Then in our rooms it was completely bare and white.” 

“It was hard. the first few weeks there because it was so grey and alone in my apartment with bare white walls, with no background noise. So it’s like, ‘This is solitary confinement.’” she said.

The feeling of confinement was intensified because language and transportation issues made everyday life difficult.

“The only difficult thing about China was the language barrier. It’s very hard for people to come and be independent and boot around town … In London (during the 2012 Olympic Games) that will be the big difference.

“We were very dependent on taxies. It was difficult to get anywhere.”

Days before Lassen competed, a Hungarian weightlifter in the men’s division suffered a horrific accident while competing. The bar fell on him after he dislocated his elbow.

Luckily, the incident did not affect Lassen’s focus because she only heard about it after she competed.

“That’s a really common injury in competition because you’re going all out and you don’t want to drop a bar that, in training, you’d just let go of,” said Lassen.

“It’s actually my biggest fear … I hyper-extended both of my elbows in 1999 in a competition, and that hurt a lot. So I can only imagine elbow-dislocation is way worse.”

Lassen and fellow Yukon Olympian Zack Bell couldn’t attend the Games’ opening ceremonies, but attended the closing ceremonies together.

Once inside the stadium the two wrote, “Thanks Yukon” on a Canadian flag with a Sharpie, and then did their best to catch the eye of the cameras while waving the message baring Maple Leaf.

“We were dancing around in front of cameras, trying to get them to flash it … but it didn’t work,” said Lassen. “The next thing you know, we saw all these girls on top of people’s shoulders getting attention from the cameras. So Zack got on my shoulders with the flag, but from I hear it didn’t get on TV.”

So why give so much effort to get a simple message on the air?

Lassen feels so much of her success stems from the overwhelming supports she has received from the community of Whitehorse and the rest of the Yukon.

“From the Yukon I didn’t feel any negative pressure, only positive,” said Lassen.

“I wanted to make the Yukon proud. I didn’t fear that I would be shunned or something if it didn’t go well,” she adds.

Uncertain going into the Games, the China experience has inspired her to carry on with her training and work towards the next Olympics, to be held in 2012 in London, England.

Meanwhile, Lassen is eyeing a different Olympic sport — a winter sport!

“I’m think about trying out bobsled,” said Lassen. “It’s actually a really easy transition for weightlifting to bobsledding. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be any good at it!” she said, with a laugh.

“I have friends that are involved (in bobsledding) and I just think it would be a cool way to keep training and just give my mind a break from the repetitiveness of weightlifting … And I need a forced break.”

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