November 28th, 2015

weights, deadlift

This is what mind over matter looks like

The International World Weightlifting Championships have been going on all this past week in Houston, and many of the sessions have been streaming on, so I've gotten to be a total sports nut this week. I think I've now watched more Olympic weightlifting in the past week than I had previously in my entire life.

There have been some pretty dramatic moments in the competition, but I don't think anything will beat what happened in the women's under-75kg weight class competition yesterday. Just to give a little bit of context for those not familiar with weightlifting: Each lifter has to perform two lifts - the snatch (lifting the bar from the ground to overhead in essentially a single movement) and the clean and jerk (lifting the bar from the ground to the shoulders, and then overhead). They get three attempts at each lift, and the highest weight they manage on each lift is added together to form their total score.

In the video, you'll see North Korea's Rim Jong Sim perform two successful lifts in the snatch. Her third lift goes wrong, and she lands pretty hard on her left knee and has to be helped off the platform. At that point, I thought she was probably out of the competition. But she comes back for the clean and jerk, successfully lifts 150kg, and then falls over. And then manages to limp back onto the platform a few minutes later to lift 155kg. And then falls over. And then has an unsuccessful try at 157kg. She ended up with silver medals in the snatch, the clean and jerk, and the overall total. And if there were a gold medal in sheer guts, she'd have that.

By the end there, I was in agreement with the ESPN commentators, who were asking, "Is it possible for a doctor to stop this, the way they can stop a fight in boxing?" (Apparently not.) The news articles I've read make it sound like it was Rim's decision to keep lifting, and not her coaches', but, wow, it was both inspiring and painful to watch. I really hope she recovers quickly, because, damn, she's earned herself another shot at the Olympics next year.

(This video doesn't show the medal ceremony, in which Rim was helped to the podium by the gold and bronze medal winners and then had someone standing behind her the entire time holding her upright. I don't think the IWF deals with injured medalists very often - I'd have brought the poor woman a chair.)