I know what you are thinking…It has been a long time since I Dead Lifted. Well today you are in luck.
Get a heavy single.
Speaking of “heavy”…nice read from The New York Times
What goes through weight lifters’ heads as they try to keep the barbell aloft? For Yuliya Kalina of Ukraine, it’s “Hold!” and then “Stay.”
By DAVID SEGAL Published: August 1, 2012
LONDON — It may be the cruelest moment of the Summer Olympics, the check-your-watch-and-you-missed-it span of time that weight lifters are required to hold the barbell above their heads. Athletes do not have a successful lift until they prove to the judges that they have control of the weight.
What is invisible are the thoughts that race through the athletes’ heads during this brief and excruciating purgatory. Does it seem brief? For that matter, is it excruciating?
“When the weight is above my head, I think about my mother,” said Iulia Paratova of Ukraine in a postevent interview Sunday. “I don’t know why that happens. But I always think about my mother.”
Other athletes pray. Some focus on technique. Many say their minds go absolutely blank.
“I don’t hear a thing,” said Aleksandra J. Klejnowska-Krzywanska of Poland. “I don’t hear the crowd. I can’t even hear my coach. But as soon as I’m done and the weight hits the floor, there is an eruption of noise. Then I hear it all.”
The interior life of a weight lifter is just one element of intrigue at this surprisingly engrossing event, which, initially at least, does not sound all that engrossing. The sport is so elemental that it is one of the few at the Olympics that Paleolithic man would grasp instantly.
Weight heavy. Lift. Drop. Bye.
The rules are actually a little more involved. There are two different skills in both the men’s and women’s competitions. First is the snatch, in which the bar is lifted overhead in one continuous action. Next is the clean and jerk, in which the bar is first hoisted to the top of the chest, then pressed overhead.
Athletes get three attempts in both skills. Their heaviest snatch and heaviest clean and jerk are combined, and the person with the biggest number — measured in kilograms, of course — wins. If there is a tie, it goes to the lifter who weighs less.
This may sound complicated, but organizers have given the event a 21st-century makeover and easy-to-follow framework, inspired by reality TV. When an athlete approaches the barbell, background music fills the hall here at the Excel Centre, with tension-filled sounds that seem stolen from boardroom scenes in “The Apprentice.” It is that familiar heartbeat ba-boom over a low synthesized rumble.
This is a showdown, the music says. Don’t touch that dial.
There are elements of “Survivor” as well, including a camera-ready host who appears on a series of large video screens and warms up the crowd before the action begins and during a 10-minute intermission.
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for a very exciting snatch,” he said, with innocent sincerity, during halftime Sunday.
The athletes in this version of “Survivor” are their own tribes, and each faces the same foe: ring after ring of weights. The competitors approach the foe in their own way. Sergio Alvarez Boulet of Cuba puts his hands around the bar and screams at it a couple of times. Yuderqui Contreras of the Dominican Republic grabs the bar and gently nods her head over it, as though she were double-checking the terms of a deal she and the weights negotiated a few days earlier.
The drama starts before the athlete even gets on stage. Each has one minute to attempt a lift, and after 30 seconds, a horn blasts. It is loud and long enough that if you heard it while driving it would come across as “Move along, pal.”
Some attempts are over nanoseconds after they begin, as though the athlete got the barbell an inch off the ground and thought, Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. If competitors fail three times in either skill, their Olympics are over.
An unseen narrator with a refined British accent helpfully details the stakes, sometimes by providing biographical information; “Before she became a weight lifter, she was a circus performer.” Often there are exhortations to the crowd to chip in with cheers; “O.K., ladies and gentlemen, let’s wind her up so she can make this.”
The applause and supportive screams for an athlete on the verge of elimination can reach jet-engine volumes. That is followed, in the buildup to the actual attempt, by dead silence, which is pierced occasionally by less than helpful advice.
“Lift it!” one man screamed Sunday.
But onlookers can only do so much. More than a few athletes end up flat on their backs, or hunched over on their knees, or skulking away in defeat.
Sorry, Ruslan Makarov of Uzbekistan, Khalil El Maoui of Tunisia and Bezkat Osmonaliev of Kazakhstan: the barbell has spoken. We need you to pack your bags and leave the competition.
After the event, the athletes are corralled into an area where members of the news media can conduct interviews. The weight lifting competitions, which go on for days, start with the lightest athletes. Up close, men in the 56-kilogram category — about 123 pounds — look like bionic jockeys.
They regard the barbell, many say, as a lethal enemy.
“I think of it as a snake,” said José Lino Montes Gongora of Mexico. “I feel like I need to keep it over my head or it will bite me. That’s why I take a big breath before I get near it. I’m puffing up with air to keep this snake away.”
Yuliya Kalina of Ukraine, the bronze medalist in the women’s 58-kilogram category, makes no secret of what she is thinking as she awaits the light and buzzer that says her lift will count. She screams two words.
“ ‘Hold!’ and then ‘Stay!’ ” she explained through an interpreter Monday. If it holds and stays, she walks away from the barbell and gives it a withering look that is understandable in any language: “Is that all you’ve got?”
Jackelina Heredia Cuesta of Colombia is the only competitor who smiles when she has the weight where she wants it. And the smile is not subtle. She is beaming.
“I can’t cry,” she said with a shrug, “so I smile.”
Is there also part of her trying to psyche out her opponents, to let them know that she is not merely in control, she is actually having a good time?
“Sí,” she said with a laugh.
The gold medalist Om Yun Chol of North Korea came by the media room after setting a world record Monday in the men’s 56-kilogram competition by clearing 168 kilograms, about 370 pounds, in the clean and jerk. That put him in the tiny club of athletes who have lifted three times their own body weight.
He was mobbed by members of the Asian media and then was hurried by British organizers into a more formal news conference. Before he was whisked away, he was asked what goes through his mind when he locks elbows triumphantly under the weights.
Om thought for a moment, then put down the victory bouquet of flowers he was holding, so he could demonstrate. He shot both hands over his head and grinned.
“I think to myself,” said Om, who weighs about 122 pounds and stands just under 5 feet tall, “I have lifted the world!”