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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Breaking the World Record- 2017 World Masters Games Championships

I am back in America after 2 weeks between Auckland and Dubai!  I am coming home to America holding the World Record in the Snatch in women's 63kg at 35-39, the Games record in the snatch, and a medal.   I also broke 4 Games records in the process.  

Another highlight was an Australian coach telling me that my article on UCL rehab helped save his lifter's bid at the Australian Junior World Team; it's pretty cool to do a good deed just through writing.

Breaking the World Record and becoming the undisputed best snatcher in the world is a pretty awesome feeling. There are many champions and fewer World Record holders. So, I feel I accomplished my top goal for the championships.

It was a hell of a journey getting here...I had many trials and pulled it all together at the last minute.

The Journey

My journey started back in September. I had just done 80/100 at the Olympia Cup in Vegas,  narrowly missing 83/104 weighing around 66-67kg.  2 weeks later, I attended the 2016 World Masters Championships as coach.  The top 63kg did 168kg; the top 69kg did around 174kg.  Then, I hear the World Masters Games are in New Zealand and the World Records are weights I've lifted more than in the past.  So, why not throw down and try out this whole master thing?

***Know what you are*****


Training was going awesome….until Christmas.  It was somewhere around December 27th, I had the week off before starting my training for the World Masters Games.  A dear friend of mine invited me to go skiing. He’s an expert skier among other things.  I, on the other hand, can count the number of times I’ve skied. 

I get to the mountain, Its dark. Its two for Tuesdays night skiing.  My friend is late.  I wind up getting on the wrong lift; I couldn’t even see where the lift let off because it was past the top of the mountain.  It was so dark.   It was like the worst theme park ride ever: I’m alone on this slowly moving, rickety wooden thing, barely held in.   Its bobbling along, swinging in the lonely darkness, and I have no idea where its going. I just sit in it, holding on, hoping I don’t accidently slip out to the pile of boulders 50 feet below.  

After realizing that I put myself on a near deserted triple black diamond slope in the dark,  all I can think is "If I kill myself getting down this mountain, my coach is gonna kill me."

Anyhow, being alone, I ski the parts that are reasonable (*cough* no death turns)  and hike down the actual triple diamond parts.  Well, way to jump into it after a year off from only the second time ever that I ever skied on an actual resort hill.

So, I make it down alive, and there is my friend.  I tell myself, I am going home before I get killed.  But…I drove all the way up here and spent money, I'm not going to have a chance to go skiing again until next season.  ....   Anyhow, my friend convinces me that I should stay and let him coach me.

We get off the "smaller" lift which is still fairly advanced because, apparently ,  this ski area only has “difficult hills” open  for night skiing.

At the top of the hill, we are standing to the side, ready for me to be coached. Suddenly, snow boarder plows straight into my friend, taking him out at the heels! This was not a good sign. I had never skied on something that was so icy and fast before. I cautiously ski back and forth on the hill.

He tells me to speed up, that I’m an ATHLETE, WHY IAM I BEING SO WEARY.  GO Faster! I start going faster and faster, and take more risks. Then,  I try an advanced maneuver and wind up digging the tip of my left ski into the hill, pulling my groin. This was a verifiable “oh fuck moment”. Worst part was, I still had to get down the mountain! Only way this was going to happen is if I skied down or hiked- the insult to injury.

I drove the whole way home with plastic Market Basket bag full of snow wrapped around my thigh, telling myself, “I am not a skier, I’m a weightlifter! I am not a skier, I’m a weightlifter".

I didn’t snatch over 70 kilos again until late March.  The funny thing with the groin injury is that I could clean more than my front squat without pain.  Sometimes front squatting anything over 90 kilos didn’t hurt—it would just kill me the next day.   I rode the fine line of training sore and training injured, everyday.  Two steps forward, one step back.
The battle between the negative self talk – “how could I fuck this up”-- and positive affirmations commenced. 

Aside from skiing, there were some other interesting trials and things going on in my life, that, now, lead me to the Florida Space Coast where I will be nowhere near a ski hill!

***which weight class am I?****

With the new weight class rule-- that being lighter has no more advantaged-- being a 69 held less and less appeal.  I have, yet, been able to attain a bodyweight of heavier than 67 kilos and change.  I lifted at the 2016 American Open just to post a qualifying total. weighing around 66kg.  I saw  that the top 63’s were barely touching my snatch attempts from 2014 nationals , my last competition as a 63.  And, now, with my injury, a world record was much more realistic as a 63 than a 69.

 Well, should I have been more focused on winning than world records?
I don’t know. There are fewer world record holders than world champions.  I felt it was only worth competing for a World Record. If you have a World record, you can undisputedly say you are the best at something in the world.   If you are a world champion, you may have just been the best that day.  It’s the same at any level in the sport- youth-senior-junior-master.  Maybe I’m impatient and didn't want to wait to start breaking records.

****Strategy and How I actually lifted***
The startlist showed that 63kg and 69kg were going to be competitive weight classes with top entry totals at 177kg and 204kg.  As always, in seniors and in masters, the 75kg weight class looked like a cake walk compared to the lower 2 classes.  With my leg healing, the strategy was: lift 63kg and close the session, pull everything together last minute, definitely get a world record in.  What we didn't know and couldn't have known is that the 69kg at 204kg total did not show-up to weigh ins.

This was the first meet that I had lifted as a 63kg in almost 3 years.  It was my first meet, ever, as a Master. Judging from the competition field, the strategy was to open light then take larger jumps.   My nearest competitor had lifted at several major championships as a Master (Pan Ams, Nationals) and appeared to be a veteran crossfitter. Actually, it seemed many of the 35-39 US lifters had been crossfitting longer than olympic lifting. 
Snatches went really well. They were so easy.  What's strange is that I actually went to snatch each lift versus just go for a power snatch.  This is actually a safer move since a full snatch, technically requires less energy.  I was fluid.  I put down a solid 73kg.   My competition had a lower lot number so she went first, I followed.  We went to 76, so she went to 76. She took the weight. So, we increased my second attempt to 77kg, a lift I’ve done a million times, just not since September.  This lift would break the prior world record by 2kilos.  I nailed it. 


 Then we went to 80 . I actually didn’t know that my competitor missed 80kg.  I got overly excited and cut my pull. It was easy. I had more in the gas tank.  Honestly, if I am to "Monday morning quarterback",  I think I should have just went to 82kg, because I have done 77-82kg jumps a thousand times, and I might have approached the bar more focused and made it.  I did get to close the session =)

Clean and jerk strategy was tricky.   The safe strategy is to open light, secure the medal, do 3 good lifts, put pressure on the competition.  The risk strategy would be to open light then take big jumps.  l had not cut weight in years, so we were not going to open with my "real opener" in the clean and jerk. Also, judging from the competition, there was a good chance that the safe strategy would work out for the win.  
In the warm-up room, I had so much energy that I felt tired. On the platform, it was a different story.  I FELT AWESOME.  I muscle cleaned 85kg. If I was lifting 69 without a weight cut, I probably would have opened 10 kilos higher, no joke. My 90kg was a toy. I would say the say the lift was a 9 out of 10; I caught it a smidge forward.  I think I had spaced my feet a little too wide in my start positions. 

My third was a debate.  I wanted to save it and jump to 105kg, because that was the World Record.  My coach, on the other hand, didn’t want to take too huge of a jump being I am barley back from injury.  So, we took 95kg, and, like my 80kg, because it was a light weight,   I feel like I rushed my set-up was  and I popped it forward.  Again, just sayin, I really think we should have done a repeat of my 13kg jump at the American Open.  

Call me unrealistic-- because I don't know what the words "realistic" and "impossible" mean.

 At the end of the day,  I really wanted to get a world record and be certain that a I medaled. It turned out, my total was even higher than the 75kg gold total and I would have won 69kgs.  I guess that’s why  my lifts were a World Record breaking performance- because they were good enough to win the next two higher weight classes! 

It also seemed that my story was compelling enough for me to be interviewed on World Masters Games TV.  I really feel that I captured the hearts of the audience.    I  described how I broke the world record after a near career ending injury.   Let me tell you though, if I knew what my competitors were going to say, I TOTALLY would have been like "I've only been competing for 2 weeks as a Master, and this is my first major event EVER as a Master"- that would have been funny as hell. #satire  #icanthelpmyself
There was a nice barbend write-up on this video. I would say, more than "its never too late to start", you can always leverage what you have done in the past to excel at new ventures in life.

The interviewer also asked me about competition training and "rituals" , so I explained how Risto Sports factors into all of that.  They cut out my blurb on Risto Sports (it was germain to his question, and just 5 seconds!! I swear lol) so hear it is:  I wore 2 different pairs of Risto shoes, a Risto singlet, Risto warm-up suit, my new book on the Soviet system has key strategies for training for competition, and I wore Risto wrist wraps in the process of securing the World record, a medal ,and breaking 4 Games records.   Side note, there were a ton of Australian and New Zealand lifters competing in Risto Singlets or Shoes.
Additionally, USAW had a great write-upnas well; it is great to see the organization celebrate successes https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Weightlifting/Features/2017/May/03/Team-USA-Wins-More-than-50-Medals-at-World-Masters-Games

A lot of people ask me if I’m happy.  Yes, I am very happy that I won the snatch world record.  And, I look forward to destroying all the other records, and I would like to do across a few weight classes. 



***What was it like lifting at the World Masters Games ***


The World Masters Games is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.  So, I guess its kind of like lifting at an age specific Games such as  the Youth Olympic Games or the Universiade.  There are many good things yet also many areas that could have been improved.

The filed of play was great. The competition platform had a perfect surface finish.  The lighting was bright and shined-in from the sides.  The audience area was nicely cordoned off by World Masters Games banners.  The audience seemed fairly into the competition. They seemed pretty behind me, which was awesome to feel.  (When I got my medal, I was actually announced as "Gwendolyn Sisto of Australia" if that says anything). The Officials were very professional, helpful, had a great attitude.

**Things that could have improved***

The first thing that could have been improved was training hall.  The venue had ample training areas that could have been used.  There seemed to be about 3 different areas just by the competition area that had training platforms built into the floor.  It would have been ideal to have a section of training hall platforms right at the venue.

Ok, so maybe for some reason the organizers couldn't make that happen. The solution was not that great: basically, an email was sent out with a lift of places offering training, many asking a fee per session, many with only limited time slots. We were basically on our own to figure it out.  

This is problematic as New Zealand is on one of the least populated continents in the world. So, most people would be traveling long distances to this competition. Most people would need to acclimate. Hence, out of any place in the world, New Zealand is one place where would want to have  easy to figure out training timetables and locations all posted and ironed out before the competition.

 Some of the rules were inconsistently applied. For example, there is some rule at Masters that you can always move up a weight class the day of weigh ins; however, the organizing committee sent out an email indicating that the final verification of entries was when the final startlist would be published implying no further changes. 

Then, there is the legless singlet debate. One lifter in the women’s 69kg 35-39 wore a legless singlet and was made to change it or be withdrawn from the competition.

This is the most laughable thing I have ever heard for two reasons: 1—We weightlifters have fought for the right to wear legged singlets and weightlifting suits with sleeves, why would anyone want to wear a retro legless singlet? AND 2- how could legless singlets ever be illeagal? Prior to the early 90’s, there was a rule that singlets could not cover the thighs.

My dear people, do you see how backward the situation is?  The weightlifting community is willing give up its right to have legged singlets and some officials in the IWF are now forgetting that legless singlets used to be the standard mandated for decades.

As a side bar, of course legged singlets give you an advantage because there is less friction on the singlet fabric than skin. But, hey, people do crazy things for style. I’ll probably start making legless ones at some point.

Another improvement area was the disconnect between the world masters games regulations and how the weightlifting competition was run. The World Masters Games website was pretty clear that coaches needed to register for credentials.  Really, only athletes needed to. The weightlifting was run much like a normal Masters meet- the athletes were given a coaching pass. If there was more than one athlete per country in your session, then you totally got shafted on getting a coaching pass if you had a higher lot number.   However, the warm-up room was so spacious, that control on passes wasn't that strict.  So, it seemed everyone got to bring their coach in the back.

*****Drug testing**********

Drug testing went home at like 5 o’clock. Like, no shit, they literally didn't test anyone in the evening sessions day 7.  WADA,  never around when you want them to be.... bahahaha.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Congrats on the record Gwen. Maybe someday I can compete in a Masters Worlds. 2019's are in Montreal.

Gwen Sisto said...

Montreal, Fantastique! J'y vais!

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