Olympic weightlifters defy gravity at test event

The thuds from weights hitting the floor in the warmup room backstage were enough to put a buzz in the room.

The thuds from weights hitting the floor in the warmup room backstage were enough to put a buzz in the room.

When the world-class weightlifters performed for the audience, the room vibrated with excitement.

The Northwestel Beijing Test Event held in the Gold Rush Inn’s General Store meeting room Wednesday was more than a chance for Olympic weightlifting team members to display their strength.

It was also a practice for next month’s Olympic competition.

“It was just testing the athletes on their training … as well as testing to control emotion,” said Moira Lassen, event host, Canadian Weightlifting Federation boardmember, Yukon Weightlifting Association President — and mother of Jeane Lassen.

“They can test their training in training, but it’s not the same at all when you do it in front of a live audience.”

The audience was encouraged to be boisterous, not that it needed permission.

“We were looking for distraction because we’ve heard the Chinese audiences aren’t that respectful,” said Moira Lassen, who will travel to Beijing as a technical official. 

“Canadians really tend to be a passive crowd, so we were trying to get them to be a bit more aggressive.”

“The crowd was awesome,” said Jeane Lassen, 27, who will represent Canada in the 75-kilo weight-class. “It probably has a bigger affect because we just went to the Olympic trials in May and there was probably a tenth of the people in a huge double-wide high school gymnasium, so it’s not the same feel at all — and most of them were weightlifters.”

The event showcased the snatch and the clean and jerk.

The former is done with a wide grip on the bar and consists of one swift movement to bring the weight above the head.

The clean and jerk is a series of movements, done with a narrower grip, to bring the weight up above the head with a series of rapid stages.

Some of the four weightlifters present attempted personal bests, including Lassen.

After accomplishing a snatch-lift of 105 kilos, she attempted to surpass her own Canadian record of 110 kilos with a lift of 111. (Success would not have resulted in a record since the event was not a competition.)

Lassen also attempted to beat her own personal best in the clean and jerk by a kilo, going for 139.

She was unsuccessful in both lifts.

“I didn’t get either, but they were both very close,” said Lassen. “I’ve tried 139 in the past and I did clean it as easily and the jerk was not as close. I know it’s hard to quantify; you either make it or you don’t.

“I haven’t lifted these weights in a year … so I haven’t tried more than 110 in over a year,” said Lassen. “Trying them in that situation, that’s putting stress on yourself. Now I can go back to training (thinking) I almost did it, why not give it a few tries.

“It’s definitely good for the confidence.”

Two of four Canadian male weightlifters were also present at the test event: Montreal’s Francis Luna-Grenier, 21, who will compete in the 59-kilo weight class and Jasvir Singh, 31, from Burnaby, BC, who will test his strength in the 62-kilo class.

Singh has been training with Lassen in Whitehorse for three months.

“It will be good because I’ve done a three-month training camp with Jeane,” said Singh, a construction worker, of the upcoming Olympics.

Singh made a personal best in the snatch, lifting 117 kilos. He failed to beat the Canadian record of 156 kilos in the clean and jerk.

Luna-Grenier, a science student at Ahuntsic College in Montreal, couldn’t repeat his record 166-kilo lift in the clean and jerk, logged this year at the Continental Championships in Peru.

He topped out at 158 kilos.

“It was a bit of a fight, but I have room,” added Luna-Grenier, suggesting he will do better in the future.

He did come within five kilos of the Canadian record in the snatch with a lift of 130 kilos. He set the record at the Nationals in May.

Olympic team alternate and Whitehorse native Emily Quarton, who competes in the 58-kilo class, was also present.

 “Because I didn’t make the Olympics I’ve been basically starting back at the beginning to rebuild for the next season,” said Quarton, 23, who is studying education at Montreal’s Concordia.

“I’ve been doing a lot more running and jumping than actual Olympic lifts, so I better than I expected today, but I did 80 (kilos) in the snatch and my best in competition is 90. And I did 102 (kilos) in the clean and jerk when my best is 108.”

Quarton took gold at the Nationals during the May long weekend, but it wasn’t enough to earn her a spot in Bejing.

“Unfortunately there’s only 90 spots for women’s weightlifting in the world,” said Jeane Lassen. “So that means that every national champion doesn’t get to go to the Olympics; it’s not enough to be the best in your weight-class.”

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