2016 Pan American Championships – Rio Olympic Qualification

As I am writing this, I just landed in Montréal, Canada. I’m finally home after a long 6 days trip to Cartagena, Colombia where the 2016 Pan American Championships was held. This competition was of extreme importance because non qualified countries fought to get a spot for the Olympic Games.

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On Canada’s performance at the Championships 

In order to receive one female ticket to the Games, female teams needed to finish in the top 4 whereas male teams needed to finish in the top 7. Teams needed to be smart and every attempts mattered. It turns out that the general approach was very aggressive in the beginning of the week and very conservative towards the end.

Team Canada

Team Canada

I’m happy to report that Canada managed to grab a male and a female spot for the Olympics. Our female team was incredible. We finished in the first place, earning 109 points which is 6 points more than Puerto Rico. Our female team consisted of Amanda Braddock (48kg), Lacey Van Der Marel (58kg), Kristel Ngarlem (69kg), Marie-Eve Beauchemin Nadeau (69kg) and Prabdeep Sanghera (75kg).

Amanda and Marie-Eve both got medals. Amanda got a bronze for snatching a great 75kg and Marie-Eve got a snatch bronze (103kg), Clean and Jerk silver (134kg) and total bronze medal (237kg)

It was a blast for me to be able to help coach during the 69kg category. I believe it was the best female group of the whole competition. The top 3 finishers (COL, USA and CAN) went back and forth and made most attempts – It was so exciting.

After a very tough week and a very heated fight, our male team finished in 7th with 118 points. Venezuela got 8th place with 117 points, and Chili got 9th with 116 points – that’s how tight this competition was. Our male team was Matt Lee (69kg), Francis Luna Grenier (69kg), Jerome Boisclair (77kg), Boady Santavy (85kg), Pascal Plamondon (85kg), Mikael Gonsalves (94kg), David Samayoa (94kg) and George Kobaladze (105+).

Everyone worked hard and was impressive to me. A few stood out : 18 years old Santavy came in to break records and he did. He lifted 152kg and 176kg. He broke the Junior Canadian Snatch and total record and the Junior Commonwealth snatch and total record. He missed the pan ams bronze snatch medal due to bodyweight. Plamondon had a great meet and won a snatch silver (153kg) and total bronze (338). Samayoa was impressive, matching his best total of 328kg, finishing in 4th place and ending up with a snatch bronze medal – his first international medal to my knowledge. Kobaladze, who I was coaching, did what he had to do with amazing grit and courage. Very impressive attitude and dedication.

Our future Olympians will be Beauchemin Nadeau and Plamondon! Congrats to everyone, and good luck to them in Rio.

On the competition venue and training hall

Competition venue

Competition venue

I thought the competition venue was great. It was in some kind of sport complex – next to a very old school Colombian Boxing Gym which I visited. Of course, the heat and humidity was intense for me. I believe most days, the weather was around 35 Celsius degrees and 100% humidity. However, athletes had access to AC while waiting to go on the competition platform. The competition ran very smoothly.

The training hall was fully equipped with 16 or so Eleiko platforms, bars, and weights. It was next to the competition warm up area and people in the audience could see teams train – which I thought was great. I spent a lot of my time in Cartagena in the training hall looking at the teams train (More on that later).

Training hall

Training hall

Team training

I had a blast looking at everyone train. I think the best technicians were the Colombians and Cubans. Something interesting that I noticed is that most other south american teams lifted without foot movement or foot noise. The Colombians and Cubans were, for the most part, stompers (which is my preference).

I saw a lot of individual difference in the Colombian team. A 75kg lifter was maxing out snatch, clean and jerk and squat two days prior to the competition while another girl was pretty much tapering with low volume and low intensity. Solis, for example hit, I believe, 80-100, 2 days prior to her competition where shit hit 107-140.

I loved watching the Cuban team. They seemed to still be operating on the soviet system (or their variation of it). They did more volume than other teams with very light intensity throughout the week. Interestingly enough, everyone on the team was amongst the most muscular of their class which makes sense given the volume at which they seem to train. They loved jerks behind the head – they did them almost everyday I saw them train. The day before the 94-105-105+, the coach spent 30 minutes with the athletes working of foot drills and foot movement – reinforcing proper movement of the feet and a stomp of the heels.

I liked looking at the behavior of the athletes as well. Most coaches were very calm and athletes listened and respected the coaches – No one argued and no one talked when a coach was talking. It also seemed like most south american teams spent their free team in their room prior to competition – not on the beach or visiting the city. I think this is a good lesson for many athletes.

Lessons I learned

I had an amazing time trying to connect with other coaches and other athletes. I made many friends, learned a lot of different athlete’s training or coach’s philosophy. It was also fun to hang out with most the teams after the competition. If I want to get the most out of it the next time, I have to learn Spanish.

I also learned that the chalk is much different in South America and I should never travel without bringing my own chalk again.

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