Arriving in Whitehorse Tuesday evening, Olympian Jeane Lassen was greeted by a roar of applause and a veritable strobe light of camera flashes from the media and public.
“I’m really lucky to have so much support,” said Lassen, who has been stopped and congratulated in the street by several people in the small time since returning from the Games.
“It’s what every athlete dreams of and I’m really lucky to be from a place like this…
“I think being in a place like the Yukon, you have a lot more support and a lot more reason to keep on pushing.”
Lassen finished eighth in the 75-kilogram division after competing August 15.
The Olympic competition was not different in itself, but the accompanying media frenzy altered the atmosphere on the platform, said the experienced weightlifter.
Of course, there’s always excessive pressure at the Olympics, she said.
“The competition itself wasn’t different at all, it was all of the hype around it,” said Lassen. “This is only different because there was lots of media, and it’s only every four-years so you put more pressure on yourself to perform.
“I don’t know if it was positive or negative, the pressure of this being the one shot and that being the only day that that counted,” said Lassen. “It’s the same for everyone, so you have to look at it that way. Even the best in the world … have that pressure.”
The competition was tough — had Lassen matched her personal best at the Games, she still would have come short of getting bronze.
“I could never lift how much the Chinese, Cao Lei, lifted,” said Lassen. “She did all world records.
“I would have liked to place higher and lift more weights but, in the end, it’s really about getting to the Olympics,” said Lassen. “In 20 years it won’t matter if I came eighth or fourth. It was the fact that I got there and competed.”
“I’m not satisfied with the weights I lifted, but I’m proud of the effort I put in,” continued Lassen. “At the end of the day that’s all you can control.”
Oddly enough, one of the main deciding factors for her eighth-place finish was not derived from the competition itself, but from Lassen’s warm-ups between lifts.
“I had a lot of time between attempts, so I had to do a lot of extra lifting in the warm-up room,” said Lassen. “I think that’s what killed me. When I went to the platform I was tired.”
Since weightlifting is a sport in which competitors spend only a few minutes actually performing, weightlifters often welcome distractions to keep from over-thinking an event, she said.
However, Lassen found herself in a rather distraction-free environment once in China.
“For me it was kind of hard because I was in an apartment by myself for the three weeks leading up to the Games,” said Lassen. “So I had no background noise or distractions, so I did have a lot of time to think. Sometimes I thought I was thinking way too much.”
After so many years of preparation, Lassen had a heap of extra pressure added when she was unsuccessful in her first lift.
“That’s very scary in any competition,” said Lassen. “You can’t take weight off the bar and say, ‘Sorry, I started too high. My mistake.’ You have to go and try it again.
“That was definitely a scary moment. I just had to smile and forget it … I’m really proud of myself that I managed to get over that and go on with the competition.”
Despite being the oldest in her weight class, Lassen, 27, has the London 2012 Olympic Games in her sights.
“At first I wasn’t sure if I want to continue on for 2012, but towards the end of the Games I was more and more motivated,” said Lassen. “One of the things I think that would really cool for London is that family to come and support (the athletes) and tour around.”
Lassen has a different training regiment from most weightlifters, training as a “full athlete.” In other words, she has an expanded scale of exercises.
That, and the fact that she was absent from the sport for a few years because of injury leads Lassen to believe age will be less of a factor for her.
“Maybe my body will be able to tag those extra years that were lost to the end of my career,” said Lassen. “And qualifications for the next Olympics start as early as next year’s World Championships.”
In 1999, Lassen suffered a back injury that prevented her from competing in the 2000 Olympics. After years of recuperation, she re-entered the sport too late to qualify for the Athens Olympics. Luckily, her back was in good shape when it came time to perform.
“The day of the competition I felt really good actually,” said Lassen. “My back was actually the best it felt the whole time I was in China. So I was really positive when I left the (Olympic) village.
“I’m still paying for it,” she added, speaking of her injury. “It’s still my weakest link, but everyone has a weakest link.
“Everyone said it was over for me.”
Lassen holds six Canadian and three junior records in weightlifting.
She won a silver and a bronze at the 2006 World’s and has thrice medaled at the World Junior Championships.
She was also adorned with a silver medal at the Canada Winter Games at the young age of 14 and later took bronze in the Pan American Championships in 1999.
Lassen has also been named Yukon’s Female Athlete of the Year eight times.
Part two of this story will be published Wednesday.