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Day one in Chicago

It was the first day of competition for the Pan-American/Ibero-American Weightlifting Championships and U.S. National Championships, and competition there was.  The day started out strong, as because of technical problems, one of the top women weightlifters in the 48 kg class was competing in the B group, which started out the tournament along with Group B of the women’s 53 kg class.  Carolina Valencia Hernandez from Mexico blew the competition away, lifting 83 kg in the snatch and 97 kg in the clean and jerk, over twice her own body weight.  Valencia Hernandez did not compete in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and thus has had ample time to prepare for this tournament, her first big competition in over a year.  Her Mexican teammates were cheering and screaming for her the whole time as well, urging her along.

“We really formed a camaraderie in the housing,” Valencia Hernandez said through a translator.  “Everyone is friends and everyone has been very welcoming.”

When the women’s 48 kg Group A competed later in the day, there were thrills as well, as attempting her first clean and jerk lift, Stacy Suyama of the USA collapsed and had to be lead of the stage in tears.  A true competitor though, after a short rest Suyama was back and completed the competition.  She even ended up winning a gold medal in the snatch in the U.S. National Championships.

Looking at these women you would never guess that they were weightlifters.  All of the women competing in the 48 kg (106 lbs) weight class are significantly shorter than me, at 5’6″, and yet could easily lift my weight and more.  Weightlifting is not just a sport for 300 plus pound men, it’s a sport for all sizes, and watching these women lift that much weight, is more amazing than watching those huge men.

As we move into the Men’s 56 kg Group A, the stakes are really raised with medals now at stake.  In their first snatch lifts, many of these men are almost lifting twice their own body weight, bringing 106 kg over their head.  Sergio Armando Rada Rodriguez from Colombia seems to be the comfortable favorite in this event with his Colombia teammates loudly cheering from the stands.  Rada Rodriguez finishes the snatch with his highest lift, 112 kg, 7 kg more than the lifter in second place.  Rada Rodriguez really makes this sport look easy, walking up to that bar and looking like he lifts it without strain.  Rada Rodriguez ended up easily winning the event with an over score of 255 kg.

“I have been working very very hard,” Rada Rodriguez said through a translator.  “I want to bring my country dignity and pride.  I wanted to make my country proud.”

As we near the end of day 1, the Colombians are still making it look easy.  Rusmeris Villar Barbosa who competes in the women’s 53 kg group opened her snatch lifting with 77 kg, almost beating the highest overall lift of all the other girls after their three tries.  Villar Barbosa also makes it look easy, lifting the weight straight above her head showing no strain or hesitation.  Villar Barbosa won the group with a score of 189 kg, proving that so far in this tournament the Colombians seem to be the team to beat.

“All my hard work paid off,” Villar Barbosa said through a translator.  “I came here to win and I did.  I could show all my strength.”<–>