Kiana El­liott: Weightlifter.

Kiana El­liott, 20, weightlifter 2016 Ocea­nia Weightlift­ing Cham­pi­onships gold medal­list

The Saturday Paper - - Contents The Week - Richard Cooke

I started gym­nas­tics af­ter do­ing it in school. The lady who ran it picked me out as a ta­lented child at that stage, and I got into it. We de­cided to go down the elite route, and it in­volved quite a big move. I grew up in [Syd­ney’s] Me­nai and moved over to Dun­das Val­ley so I could train at Ep­ping, and then I changed schools for high school, so I could train at an elite level.

I came away with a cou­ple of medals and a few in­juries. I in­jured my back and then I in­jured my leg and then I in­jured my back again. So it took quite a long time to re­cover. It left me ques­tion­ing my long-term health. I de­cided to give it up at the end of 2011.

No more sport was a bit weird for me. I was very in­vested and very fo­cused on my gym­nas­tics, so when it came to that re­tire­ment thing…

I de­cided to try to get into as many things as I could that weren’t sport. So I ended up go­ing over­seas to Tanzania with a youth lead­er­ship group. That re­ally opened my eyes a bit.

One of the girls there had fam­ily who did Cross­Fit, and she said, “You should try it. You might en­joy it.” So I came back to Aus­tralia, made my way over to the lo­cal Cross­Fit gym and started work­ing out there. I was only

15, and I was work­ing out with peo­ple a lot older than me, but I en­joyed it. I started weightlift­ing by this stage.

An Amer­i­can weightlifter had come over to run some sem­i­nars in Aus­tralia, and af­ter­wards she con­tacted me on Face­book and said, “You prob­a­bly would have placed at the ju­nior state level. Maybe you’re in­ter­ested in do­ing the sport.”

The most sim­i­lar move­ment is the hand­stand. You flip that the right way around and you end up with the bar over your head, so just be­ing aware of where an ob­ject was in re­la­tion to my body al­lows me to pick up how to move around the weight, around the bar. I was fas­ci­nated by how to do it.

Weightlift­ing is de­cep­tively tech­ni­cal. Of­ten peo­ple think it’s just brute strength, but it’s de­cep­tively tech­ni­cal. The best lifters, they make it look re­ally easy and al­most ef­fort­less. When you start weightlift­ing you get what we call “new­bie gains”.

You make big tech­ni­cal im­prove­ments and you haven’t quite reached your strength level yet. So as you make tech­ni­cal im­prove­ments, you move re­ally, re­ally quickly and you get a lit­tle bit of ar­ro­gance. Then you look at your pro­gres­sion and you’re like, “If I did this lin­ear, I would be great in two years, right?” And then slowly, slowly, slowly, it starts to get harder, harder and harder and you re­ally start ap­pre­ci­at­ing ev­ery sin­gle kilo you can get up.

Some­times it can take a year to im­prove by a kilo. My coaches al­ways put to me, “Okay, it’s easy now. It’s re­ally fun.” Be­cause I’ve al­ways liked the chal­lenge of fac­ing some­thing that seems re­ally heavy that you’ve never done be­fore. But when they put to me, “What are you go­ing to do when you don’t im­prove? How are you go­ing to be able to men­tally ap­proach it?” It’s a lot harder, be­cause it’s a whole dif­fer­ent ball game once you’re in it for a few years.

When I got into weightlift­ing I found a bit of a stigma against it.

I was at an all girls pri­vate school – Ab­bot­sleigh [on Syd­ney’s up­per north shore] – from year 7 to 12. So my peers and my teach­ers were like, “Are you go­ing to have to get all mus­cly?” Even I had those stig­mas in my head. In weightlift­ing and gym­nas­tics, the coach­ing is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. My coach now leaves all the mo­ti­va­tion up to the ath­letes, pretty much. He’ll give you the tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance you need; he’ll give you the pro­gram you need to get there; he won’t mo­ti­vate you.

That’s up to you.

RICHARD COOKE is a jour­nal­ist and writer for tele­vi­sion. He is The Satur­day Pa­per’s sports edi­tor.

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