Mem­o­ries of an Olympian

Kris Dando

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

You’re 36 and em­bark­ing on a new ca­reer?

I’m in my sec­ond year study­ing early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion. I thought it was about time I got my ca­reer path un­der way. I love kids – I have a 14-year-old step­daugh­ter, 6-year-old twins and a 3-yearold boy. I was telling peo­ple when I was 5 I wanted to be a teacher. Hope­fully I can work with spe­cial needs kids.

Have you al­ways lived in Porirua?

I went to Tairangi School and Aotea Col­lege. Apart from a few years in Europe from 2004, when I needed a break af­ter com­pet­ing, Porirua has al­ways been my home.

When did weightlift­ing be­come your sport?

I was 14 and re­ally into ath­let­ics, but [Aotea Col­lege guid­ance coun­sel­lor and weightlift­ing coach] Garry Mar­shall said I should give weightlift­ing a go. I sprained my an­kle play­ing touch one day and Garry said I needed to con­cen­trate on one thing. I worked twice a day and be­came a na­tional cham­pion months af­ter start­ing out and was on my way. Garry was a huge in­flu­ence and went out of his way to help me.

You had a brother who was se­ri­ous about weightlift­ing?

Heinz [three years her ju­nior] was a New Zealand and Ocea­nia ju­nior cham­pion. We were even for a while, but he was a male, and cleared out from me.

What was your main mo­ti­va­tion in weightlift­ing?

I loved train­ing and com­pet­ing, work­ing to­wards goals. In my fam­ily, once you start some­thing, you go hard un­til you hit the top. It wasn’t wear­ing the tights that kept me go­ing!

What were your train­ing con­di­tions like?

Pretty ba­sic. Once Garry and I moved from the Aotea Col­lege gym, we were in a room on the side of Maraeroa Marae. The floor­ing was not ideal and we had it rough, re­ally. But I worked hard and that was the main thing.

Women’s weightlift­ing went into the Olympics for the first time at Syd­ney in 2000. Per­fect tim­ing for you.

I was 14 when I started and 21 when Syd­ney came around. I’d been at na­tion­als and Ocea­nia champs for years and was ready.

What sticks in your mind about Syd­ney?

Ev­ery­thing felt brand new and huge and amaz­ing, like the Olympic vil­lage and where we com­peted. The at­mos­phere around the place was like noth­ing else. Some coun­tries I went to were a real cul­ture shock, but I’m so lucky that 2000 was just across in Aust- ralia, so my par­ents and sib­lings were able to go and sup­port me. It felt com­fort­able. I roomed with Beatrice [Fau­muina] and she was great, but we were fo­cused on what we had to do and hardly saw each other.

And you were eighth in the 75kg+ di­vi­sion [snatch 105kg, clean and jerk 130kg].

It was a per­sonal best, so that was mas­sive for me. I couldn’t have done any bet­ter. Be­cause I came in the top eight I got an of­fi­cial Olympic di­ploma, a nice lam­i­nated cer­tifi­cate. Proof that I went to the Olympics!

Go­ing for­ward to the 2002 Manch­ester Com­mon­wealth Games. What were your ex­pec­ta­tions?

Pretty high. I took some time away af­ter Syd­ney, but then built up nicely to Manch­ester and was right on tar­get. But when I got to the com­pe­ti­tion I bombed. It’s still a sore spot and hard to talk about. I was ranked No 1, so it was dis­ap­point­ing to get sil­ver [snatch 125kg] and two bronzes [100kg clean and jerk and for the 225kg com­bined to­tal]. In my warm-ups I was lift­ing the weights some of the girls were fin­ish­ing on, but when it came time to ex­e­cute, I just didn’t. I was dis­ap­pointed – I don’t know what was go­ing through my head.

What was the Com­mon­wealth Games like com­pared to the Olympics?

It was good and I was happy to be there, but it was much more low- key. There was a bit of dis­tance be­tween venues and you were stay­ing in sort of hos­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion. Syd­ney was fresh and new, but Manch­ester felt a bit con­gested. But there was a good feel­ing in the New Zealand team and you got to see all th­ese great ath­letes as nor­mal peo­ple, with smelly feet, watch­ing TV and chill­ing out in the cafe­te­ria.

Was there much me­dia clam­our around you at that time?

I got phone calls and did a lot of in­ter­views, but of course that’s well and truly died away now. Ev­ery now and again I might get a call be­fore a Com­mon­wealth Games to do an in­ter­view and will be asked to talk at school once in a while. My niece took the medals in to her school re­cently.

Where do you keep your medals?

They’re in a drawer at my dad’s place in Wai­tan­girua. I don’t feel they need to be on dis­play. My kids are too young to un­der­stand what they are, but one day I’ll tell them.

Was it hard to give away weightlift­ing?

Af­ter Manch­ester, I weaned my­self off it, even though I was able to still hit qual­i­fy­ing marks for com­pe­ti­tions. I stopped prop­erly in 2006. I’ve had so many in­juries, like slipped discs, and when I was 21 I had the arthritic knees of a 60-year-old. I was told many times by doc­tors to stop.

Are you still close to the sport?

I’ve done a bit of coach­ing and that’s some­thing I’m in­ter­ested in, es­pe­cially with all the lift­ing in Crossfit, which is pretty big to­day. If my kids ever get into it, it’d be my job to teach them to do it right – weight train­ing is so im­por­tant for other sports. I want to get fit again, so weightlift­ing might come into it.

What did per­form­ing at that high level give you?

Apart from bad knees? I was al­ways a shy child, so trav­el­ling and com­pet­ing made me more cul­tur­ally aware. I had new ex­pe­ri­ences and met new peo­ple. It taught me the value of train­ing and hard work and go­ing to other coun­tries opened up my mind. Any re­grets? Apart from what hap­pened in Manch­ester, no re­grets. How many peo­ple get to go to the Olympics, the Com­mon­wealth Games, and amaz­ing places like Turkey to com­pete? I love the op­por­tu­ni­ties that weightlift­ing gave me, but my stud­ies and my fam­ily are more im­por­tant now.

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