Seven Lessons from the Peruvian Grand Prix
Jake Horst hits a 10kg competition PR in Peru! Lets gooooo.
Olympic weightlifters dream of making international teams, they want to travel abroad, sport Team USA gear (who wouldn’t?) and take part in an awesome experience of traveling AND competing against the best in the world. There is a type of lore around making international teams. Crazy travel adventures, insane time schedules, being able to watch world class athletes compete, eating weird food in foreign places, learning how to improve execution of Olympic weightlifting while under a tremendous amount of pressure and MAYBE, just MAYBE getting your own special Hookgrip video. All of these variables make Olympic weightlifting on the international stage very inviting, exciting and of course, something to be very proud of.
This past trip to Lima, Peru, I travelled with Hayley Reichardt and Jacob Horst. We went down to Lima with one goal in mind for each athlete. Post a massive total and try to get on the Senior Pan Am team. We knew the numbers needed to potentially make the team and I laid out all the attempts to get Hayley and Jake both in solid spots for qualification. Hayley was definitely in a more precarious position as Team USA has a STACKED women’s team and the 49k weight class in absurdly stacked! Fortunately for myself, I was also able to assist other world class athletes in the back such as Christian Ocasio Rodriguez and 2016 Olympian, Jenny Arthur.
While in the back I took tons of notes, had regular conversations with Pyrros Dimas and tried to learn as much as I absolutely could. Here is a quick hitter list of lessons learned from the Peruvian Grand Prix.
1. Make sure the weigh-in scale actually works.
No joke. When Hayley was weighing in, we knew her weight was going to be right on the button for 49k. She does a solid job communicating her bodyweight, adjusting her food and making sure she holds as much weight as possible prior to weigh ins. The morning of weigh ins, she was right around 49.1 to 49.2. When we went to weigh in, the scale read 49.18. I thought that was odd. We only had about 20 minutes to lose the weight because the bus that took us to the venue ended up taking 35 minutes longer than it had planned! I was shitting a brick for a bit. Ironically, while we were at the sauna, someone decided to put a plate on the scale to check if it was accurate. Lo and behold, the scale was .15 over and Hayley made weight by basically spitting in a cup for a few moments. This caused a bit of extra stress but did not impact her overall performance. Lesson learned, be POSITIVE the scale is accurate (especially in a Pan American country).
2. Coaches must communicate consistently.
Prior to any competition, I believe it is very important to meet with athletes, cover a thorough analysis of the approach to the upcoming meet, discuss any cues, technical errors, rituals, food, etc that may be needed during the competition. After that is established, those aspects of competition MUST be communicated to all coaches involved in the process. Finally, the COACHES must communicate who is responsible for what. Having Dimas in the back made it very easy. Dimas would watch the athlete and make sure they weren’t doing anything nuts. Another coach would load and another coach would count attempts. These responsibilities might change from session to session but that must be communicated. Have the methods established. Who counts, who loads, who talks to the athlete, who has their water or drink, who gives them a slap, who gives them technical cues, who changes the attempt on the cards? When these are clarified and established up front, the process is much easier and there is likely less room for error.
3. On any given day, anyone is beatable.
In some sports I believe the athletes know this lesson quite well. Being a wrestling fan, wrestlers at the elite (NCAA) and world class (freestyle/greco) levels know that on any given day, any wrestler can win. The same holds true in various other sports. There is always a CHANCE that someone can win. In weightlifting, we like to believe in absolutes. We like to believe that even if our athlete goes 6 for 6, they still can’t beat a world medalist. BUT, that false belief creates a negative sense of stress and doesn’t help progress the competition intensity AT ALL! At the Peruvian Grand Prix, Loredana Toma came out at 103k in the snatch. Approximately 10 kilos below her best. She is a multiple time world medalist, multiple time European champion, she is a seasoned lifter with solid technical movements. She was essentially GUARANTEED to win the prize money in Peru. That was until she missed all three of her snatches! She left quite a bit of prize money on the table and the Canadian 64k lifter had herself a fantastic day, smashing snatches and clean and jerks and bringing home the $5,000. It is important to enter every competition under the notion that in reality, anyone can be beat.
4. Know the purpose of the competition.
Know the reasons behind the competition. Is it to have fun? Is it to get a meet in? Is it a reach meet and you are trying to make a team? Is it a meet to test consistency? Whatever it is, know the purpose behind the competition. The purpose behind it can change the approach in training. Jake Horst KNEW we had to put up a minimum of 290k on the total to make the Senior Pan Am team. He felt that pressure in training, he knew he was capable and he took the opportunity. He smashed his lifts and put up a 290k total. Jenny Arthur is another great example. She just needed to make lifts to establish an extra weighted competition that was drug tested. She took full advantage. There was no pressure behind the competition and she decided to just hit power snatches and power clean and jerks. She went out and PR’d BOTH lifts, had fun and took the competition for what it was, a meet to have fun. Both lifters were in different situations and that created a slightly different means of approach.
5. Execute and comprehend a repeatable technical model.
This is likely something I would say no matter what, BUT I had a good discussion with Pyrros about this topic and we discussed other lifters and their technique in relationship to their consistency or inconsistency. While we were rolling through our many discussions, I kept bringing up technique to Pyrros. I love to discuss this topic with anyone and I kept pointing out lifters whom I thoroughly enjoyed watching their technical execution. Sometimes he tells me to shut up and stop talking about weightlifting so much and yet sometimes he has 9 cups of coffee (most of the time) and he engages and continues the discussion. His rule of thumb? The technique must be repeatable for 90-95% of people, the goals for each position must be clear and they must be consistent every single movement. One thing I brought up was having a “troubleshooting” discussion with athletes. As a lifter, if they jump back, or jump forward, or miss behind or have a clean crash on them, there must be a system in place to let the lifter know the logic behind WHY these errors have occurred. When the troubleshooting is put in place, there is a greater likelihood for lifters to make corrections early on in their warm ups and thus hit more consistently lifts on the platform!
6. Create a ritual.
At international competitions, it is a time to learn from other coaches, to learn from other athletes and to observe patterns and habits. At the Peruvian Grand Prix, there were some SERIOUS lifters competing. World medalists, Olympic medalists, continental champions, various Olympians. Every session was stacked. What I enjoy doing is watching how the lifter approaches the bar, is it a regular and consistent approach, do they have an established routine? A few athletes I observed with clear cut rituals were Jenny Arthur and Luis Mosquera but one absolute beast sticks out to me more than anyone else. Eileen Cikamatana. She has snatched over 115k and clean and jerked 155k as an 87k weightlifter. She moves well and is VERY INTENSE. While observing her in the back, she had a mantra she said to herself, she yelled, she even whistled a bit and then attacked the bar with a vengeance. Her ritual put her in the zone. She didn’t give a shit if she seemed crazy, she was screaming, whistling and preparing to absolute destroy every weight that was loaded onto the bar. Rituals are a great way to establish the “zone” and to get useless thoughts out of the mind and just EXECUTE!
7. Coaches must know their athlete.
Knowing how an athlete handles cues during competition, how they handle the intensity of a meet, know if they want to know their attempts, do they have a specific tape they need to use or even a certain pre-workout to get them in the zone! All of these things are crucial for making the competition platform as comfortable as possible. Big PR’s happen in training because training is comfortable, the environment is familiar and the athlete knows what to expect. When a coach can make an intense competition as familiar as possible, it makes the success of technical execution much more likely. Don’t provide needless cues, don’t change up the system, don’t force different variables upon the athlete in a competition setting. By knowing the athlete and how they handle competition and intensity, there is a much greater likelihood for high end success!
Head into competitions already having these discussions. It is preferred to continuously bring these topics up just prior to competition and then solidify the conversation a few hours before the competition commences. This will clarify any gray areas of competing and will make the intensity of the meet, easier to handle. For more information regarding these topics be sure to subscribe to our blog, subscribe to our newsletter below and like and share our information through social media.