As I sit here on the cab ride to the airport after a pretty awesome day yesterday with Jenny Arthur, I am struck with the sense of honor and privilege I have for the opportunity I was afforded to help her this past week at the Rio Olympics. It was so incredibly special for me to be able to share that with Ms. Arthur. I am also struck by the incredible contribution our club has made in order to make this all happen. Without the phenomenal lifting from David Garcia, Donovan Ford, Chioma Amaechi, D’Angelo Osorio, Ian Wilson and Jenny Lam this opportunity would never had been possible. Having the opportunity to develop and coach elite athletes leads to more opportunities to coach non-team members. The trust that Jenny put in me for her warm-ups and preparation was directly connected to the same trust put forth in our coaching staff from our athletes at home.
The nine days in Rio were hectic due to transportation issues, the influx of athletes, coaches, and spectators, and the layout of the venues. For the first time ever, I was only responsible for one athlete so the whole focus was laying out a plan where I could watch her train, visit her in Olympic Village, and watch the weightlifting competition. I left Wednesday morning, August 10th, and after 24 hours of straight travel arrived in Rio. The transition to my lodging was smooth but that is where the adventure of locating the venue started. Mattie Rogers and Marissa Klingseis were in the USAW apartment along with Lance Williams so we also had to help map out training for them as well. All in all, I was able to get into Olympic Village two times with Jenny and was able to watch her train three times.
All my work with the Hassle Free athletes prepared me so well to work with Jenny. I had an easy time connecting with her and building trust after having helped throughout some of her big meets like the 2013 Jr. Nationals, 2014 Hassle Free Invitational, and both the 2015 Nationals and World Championships. One of the nice things about only having one athlete was the amount of time I could directly give her in my nine days in Rio. Attention to detail as well as creating the game plan for the session was so much easier focusing only on a single athlete. The five days we trained were so smooth as Zygmunt, Jenny, and I were able to plan everything together; I felt totally confident about our plan going into competition day.
Jenny was ready! The day of the competition was surreal; I met her at the USOC sports medicine center in Olympic Village where she was getting not one but two massages. As she got ready, I was graced with Morghan King’s presence at breakfast; her energy is contagious. Next, we were off to weigh-ins which went smoothly as we had a State Department escort and were surrounded by all the same characters from the previous World Championships. Knowing the French, Spanish, Brazilian and Colombian coaches really helped as we were all fighting to beat the Eastern Europeans. We began our warm up at 3PM as the session started at 3:30PM and we were going to be up close to the beginning of the session. 3:10PM we began with the bar and took a lift every two minutes up until the introductions at 3:30PM. Once that passed, we took four warm-ups before our first attempt. The French athlete missing her first attempt hurt us the most as it forced us to sit for two more minutes. The French athlete made her next attempt followed by misses from both the Brazilian athlete and Jenny. The Brazilian athlete ended up missing her next two snatch attempts at 103kg; thankfully, Jenny made her second attempt at 103kg and then waited for the increase.
We decided to go up to match the Chilean athlete from the B session, which coincidently was also the American record at 107kg. We had to wait five attempts so we took another warm-up after two bar drops on the platform and then waited two more attempts to be up. Her 107kg snatch was the best lift of her life! We all were so exited but also knew we left a couple kilos out on the platform. We had little time to celebrate as we were going to be up first in the CJ. Strategically it made the most sense to open at 130kg first, as we needed 135kg to beat the B session athlete from Chile. So we decided we would go 130kg for 8th place and then jump to 135kg to move up at least one spot in the rankings. Remember the top 8 get paid and the Brazilian athlete was out of the competition as she missed all her snatches; the opener at 130kg would set her up for a good day. She made her opener at 130kg solid but a little shaky and then bumped straight to 135kg. The clean and jerks moved quickly as we only had enough time for one lift in between the six attempts we had to wait. 135kg looked strong and moved Jenny to 5th! Then we waited. We declared 138kg, then bumped to 139kg, and finally to 141kg as everyone missed in front of us after Jenny’s second attempt at 135kg. 141kg would have moved us to 3rd place at the time; Jenny ended up missing the clean but competed amazingly overall.
The happiness Jenny felt was palpable and the pride I felt for my small contribution to her success was enormous. She fought for four long years to earn her spot to represent her country on the biggest stage, competed with the best athletes in the world, and conquered an American record along with taking 6th place in the women’s 75kg category. After her session, we watched the men’s 85kg A session, took about 100 pictures, and then we went to eat a victory meal at the Village! I couldn’t be more proud of Jenny Arthur, her accomplishments, and the way she represented her country.