Lift­ing a weight from her shoul­ders

The Dominion Post - - Sport - MARC HIN­TON WEIGHTLIFT­ING

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.

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