Lifting a weight from her shoulders
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
‘‘I have a tough day and the nieces jump on me and give me cuddles, and I’m ready for the next day again. Or it might just be I need to have a little cry and get all that frustration out.’’ Tracey Lambrechs
For a strong woman Tracey Lambrechs sure is an emotional sort.
She cried for days when she was denied a chance to compete at the London Olympics and now, four years on, she’s weeping tears of a different sort as Rio finally becomes a reality.
Lambrechs, 30, was named on Tuesday alongside Richie Patterson in the New Zealand weightlifting team for Rio.
It will be Lambrechs’ first Olympics (more on that soon) and Patterson’s third, and just the second time this country has sent a male and female lifter to the Games (the other was 2000 in Sydney).
But for the South Africa-born Lambrechs, who shifted to New Zealand with her family in 1998, hearing confirmation of her place at the Games (in the +75kg division) had extra special significance after she had been denied a chance to compete in London 2012 when the Kiwi women’s team came up an agonising four points short of qualifying a spot.
‘‘It was quite devastating and quite hard,’’ reflected the 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist.
‘‘It kind of broke me for a little bit. It had been built up for so long, and I had everyone saying ‘don’t worry, you’re going to make it’.
Being a younger athlete, I wasn’t as mentally tough as I am now . . . the competition was in Samoa and I pretty much remember crying the whole way back to New Zealand, and then again for the next couple of days.’’
The London Games themselves were just too painful for Lambrechs to even watch.
‘‘I took two weeks and went overseas while the Games were on . . . it was just too upsetting knowing I could have been there and knowing that I would have done well had I been there. It was a very hard thing to get over.’’
But reality soon bit when she returned to her home on Auckland’s North Shore.
The weightlifting world waits for no one, and before long she was back in competition (and breaking national records), and back chasing ranking points and qualifying spots all over again.
The focus soon switched to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where she won a hard-earned bronze, and before long Rio was calling her name (though she first had to beat out top hurdler Andrea Miller, who has made a successful switch to the sport).
‘‘I had to get back into it and I had to prove to myself it was the team that didn’t score the points, that it wasn’t a reflection on me and that I wasn’t done,’’ she said of her path back.
‘‘Glasgow was amazing. The night before I decided I was going to leave everything out there. In Delhi (2010) I knew I could have done better. I didn’t want that feeling again.’’
Lambrechs has a solid foundation of support that she credits with keeping her focused and motivated, not to mention competing in a sport that requires a heavy personal commitment with little in the way of funding.
That starts at home, where her parents, two sisters and nieces Michelle, 6, and Ashleigh, 4 (both present at Tuesday’s announcement) provide an invaluable support network.
‘‘I’m very lucky to be surrounded by the people I am,’’ she says.
‘‘I have a tough day and the nieces jump on me and give me cuddles, and I’m ready for the next day again. Or it might just be I need to have a little cry and get all that frustration out.
‘‘Before a competition I get very nervous and I cry the night before. That’s just my thing. The girls were sending me video messages telling me no matter what they love me and that I was amazing . . . friends and family pick you up when you’re down, and share those good moments with you to make them more memorable.’’
Lambrechs also draws on another form of inspiration from occasional training partner Valerie Adams with whom she shares a coach (Adam Storey) and a home base in Auckland (the North Sport gym at the Millennium).
‘‘She’s great. You go into train and you have a down day, and she’ll call you out and then she’ll build you up again and get you going.
‘‘I couldn’t ask for a better training partner when she’s around. I can understand why she does well because she loves her sport, and she passes on that love and it makes you love your sport even more.’’
Tracey Lambrechs will be straining for something special when she becomes just the second Kiwi woman to compete in weightlifting at the Rio Olympics.