Monday, March 31, 2014

PART 2: Behind the Scenes at the 2014 Arnold

The highlight of Saturday was seeing the international women's session.  This would produce the top two female competitors ranked by Sinclair.

Risto Sports '  entrant was Vanessa Quinones of Colombia.  Vanessa's prior best total in international competition was 176kg at the 2013 Junior World Championships.  Vanessa came to Risto Sports in January to train in hopes of making the Colombian National Team.

In a month of high volume training designed by Head Coach Ivan Rojas, Vanessa's squat increased by 10kg.  At a local meet, the Atlantic States Open in FEB 2014 in Danvers, MA, Ivan had Vanessa do an easy day of 70/75/80 in the snatch and 95/98/100 in the clean and jerk as a warm-up for the Arnold.

At the Arnold, it was time to put Vanessa's increased strength, improved technique, Risto Singlet, and risto sports weightlifting shoes to the test.  Since the competition was based on sinclair, Vanessa decided not to cut weight to 53kg and compete at 55kg, her normal training bodywieght. Vanessa opened with an easy 77Kg in the snatch. She then went to 81kg, which she narrowly missed by finishing the extension in the pull a little short.  In her third attempt, she repeated 81kg for an easy successful snatch.

For the clean and jerk, I simply expected that Vanessa would open conservative with 95 or 98kg.  To my happy surprise, Vanessa hit a super easy 95kg in the warm-up room, even easier than in training, and we opened her with 100kg.  Vanessa , then, took 105kg for an easy second attempt.  For her third, she went for 107kg.  Her clean was very strong; certainly, you could tell her new improved leg strength and improved technique was behind her.  As she went for the jerk, she just missed it behind.  Jerking a weight such that it drops behind is actually harder than doing a correct jerk, because it requires more power from the lifter.  Still, she finished with 186kg as a heavy 53kg.

Interestingly, even though she was competing at 55kg, her National Federation took note of the fact that she has the second highest clean in the country for a 53kg. Whereas, Colombia's top 53kg was clean and jerking 110kg.  The Colombian Federation, after seeing video of her 107kg,  invited Vanessa to compete on the National Team.  She will represent Colombia at the Pan Am Championships this year. I really admire the fact that the Colombian federation has the foresight to see a lifter that has had great improvement and place them on the National team.  They weren't hung up on the fact that she weighed 55kg or lifted this in the US, they looked at results and potential.  I think we can use more of this in the US, and it seems we are moving in this direction (I hope) with the multiple qualifiers that the USAW is starting to have.

Vanessa Quinones of Risto Sports, cleaning 107kg as a heavy 53
After finishing lifting, the only person who could knock Vanessa off the #1 spot was Lydia Valentin.  I really respect the fact that Lydia came to the Arnold and put on a good show.  She went 105/110/115kg in the snatch and  130/135/140X kg in the clean and jerk.  Her 140 kg clean was beautiful; her jerk was closely missed as it was a tad out front, just by having the hips rotated backward by a degree.   The 140kg clean was super easy considering that her best in IWF competition recorded is 145kg.  I think we'll see her do more at Europeans. I have become a Lydia Valentin fan.

Lydia Valentin of Spain cleaning 140kg at the Arnold, photo by Risto Sports
Sunday was the best day for me.... because  LG (Gwendolyn Rojas)lifted.  LG weighed in at 44.3kg. She was the youngest lifter in her session.  At 10 years old, LG would be battling 16 year olds for the Youth prizes (apparently, the organizers decided to cut the 13 and under prizes because too few lifters were entered ).   For me, it wasn't really important to me how she placed- more that she hit personal records and competed with great technique. 

Well, never underestimate LG as she just missed 1st place in the youth division by her last lift.  LG came in second to a 16 year old and beating several teenagers in the process.  She made 37kg in the snatch. In the clean and jerk she went 42/47x/47x.  She cleaned both her 47kg's strong, and she just missed her jerk, with her second 47kg jerk being much closer.  Again, either of her 47's would have given her first.  Still, her placement against an uneven field of teenagers was awesome, and I am proud of her.  Finally, she is a very good sportswoman always just going to do her best vs worrying about out-lifting other lifters. She constantly reminds me that the only person I compete against on the platform is myself-- and that is the most efficient way of becoming a champion.
Look at that position! LG , Gwendolyn Rojas, rocking her Risto Sports Rio weightlifting shoes and singlet

Here's part of the video of her 47kg-- yes, that's me screaming and doing a very bad camerawoman job.  I

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PART 1: Behind the Scenes at the Arnold 2014...insider stuff

Every year, the organizers of the Arnold promise that it will be bigger and better than the year before.  And, this year, as promised, it was.  The first night of lifting, there were actually 2 platforms going.  Even for a first day, some decent lifts were going up, with the last women's session of the night hitting totals over 160kg.

My Team, Risto Sports (yeah, we've never actually registered a club with USAW because we have so many international lifters and lifters who train at their home crossfits, and remotely)  had 3 lifters competing - Natasha DeLuca, Vanessa Quinones of Colombia, and LG-- Gwendolyn Rojas...along with a number of our affiliate lifters we helped.  Two of us - myself and Elio Guerra- did not compete due to injury.
As an aside, Coach Ivan Rojas posted Vanessa's complete training for the Arnold on .  I will get to more on our international lifter, poised to be the next big thing in 53's,  in part 2.
On injury and competing
It was odd being at the Arnold and not being able to compete. The funny thing is, at the Arnold, I had so much adrenaline seeing others compete that I was able to train up to 70% overhead.  It was to the point that I seriously considered just pulling off some lifts, and it was not worth risking further injury, especially as my injury would keep me from hitting 100% or more of my best.  On the upside, my injury has forced me to work mostly legs, and spend more time coaching and observing at the Arnold my loss is your gain....

The highlight of Friday was watching Lydia Valentin, one of the top European 75kg lifters, workout.  Ivan has known Lydia for about 4 years, so it was pretty cool getting to chat briefly with her and her entourage.  She is a very warm person who carries herself well. She truly fulfills expectations- showing up in trademark teased blonde hair, with large geometric earrings, coordinated pink outfits, and trademark catseye make-up (dark eyeliner around the eyes).  She worked up to 100kg in the clean and jerk and toyed with the weight, like it was 60 kilos.

The second highlight of Friday was helping count attempts for our lifter Natasha DeLuca.  She switched over form crossfit, and in less than a year, she went from like a 70kg total to almost 170kg. And she's a veteran.
Natasha DeLuca, lifting the big weights in her Wonder woman themed Risto's and Risto singlet.

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