Sunday, August 10, 2008

Going to the Olympics

This weekend has been crazy. Up till 3 Friday night for the opening ceremony and celebration, up till 1 last night hanging out with a rich friend Emma went to school with, and going to see Olympic weightlifting this morning.

I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I was really impressed at how Olympic the auditorium looked considering we were in some random school's gym. And everything was so official, from the Chinese guys who rushed out to change the weights, to the dramatic "There has been a change of weights" announcement when people decided to push themselves harder.

I'll give you the set-up. There are eight weight classifications for men. Emma and I watched the first round of the lightest group (less than 56 kg). That's less than I weigh, and I couldn't donate blood in high school because I didn't weigh enough. But all of them were a head shorter than I was, so I guess that gives them kilos to spare for muscle.

Olympic weightlifting is the composite of two events: Snatch, and Clean and Jerk. In the first, you lift the weight from the floor to over your head in one motion. In the second, you first bring the weight up to your chin, and then jerk it over your head. Obviously it's easier to lift something over your head when you get to stop halfway, so the Clean and Jerk sees higher weights. So even if you're winning after the Snatch, you still have to do well in the Clean and Jerk because it's easier to lift a few more kilos in that part.

The other rule that made everything really exciting was that even though everybody gets three attempts, turns go in the order of the next highest weight. So if you start attempting a 103 kg Snatch and only go up a few kilos from there, you might have used all three of your tries by the time a better weightlifter starts at 112 kg. The upset of our match, though, was that the highest-seeded guy, who started at 115 kg, couldn't do it! "Bombing-out" disqualified him, since how can you add the scores of Snatch and Clean and Jerk when you don't have a Snatch? He was disappointed, to say the least.

Our round had obscure countries (Moldova, Belgium, Turkey) so we weren't sure who to root for. One of the Americans sitting next to us, though, lived in Thailand and swept us up in cheering him on.

After the Snatch (these aren't supposed to be capitalized, by the way, but I think it adds to the excitement), our Thai guy was in first. The Clean and Jerk began, the weight kept going up, and I thought Mr. Maneetong had it for sure. He finished his three attempts early on, but had such a high score from the Snatch that he looked unbeatable. Then, the only one left was the weightlifter from Turkey. On his second attempt, he locked in third place. (We thought this was the finals, too, so were doubly enthralled.)

For his last attempt, he first had the weights set to put him in second. Then he went balls to the wall and loaded them up so that, if successful, he would usurp our Thai favorite to win. He came out focused, and then 10 seconds away from his time expiring, lifted the weight to his chin, then with great effort pushed it up all the way, trembling with the exertion while the judges made sure his feet weren't moving.

"成功!" the commentator said in Chinese. You don't need language classes to understand that.


Aunt Gwen said...

Great color commentary! Jaclyn wondered how much tickets cost to the different events? Can average Chinese afford to go to the events?

katiepenguins said...

You're actually seeing the Olympics! Maybe not the most marketable ones, but still!