Sasser shines through in Rio Weightlifting.

On the first day of Olympic competition for the Marshall Islands, Mathlynn “Mattie” Sasser finished second in her Group B encounter in the Women’s 58Kg Weightlifting with a total score of 199Kg, securing an 11th place overall finish.

The youngest and lightest lifter in the 58kg competition, 19-year-old Sasser lit up the crowd in the Riocentro Arena with an inspired performance on her way to equalling her highest total lift and breaking the Oceania Junior Snatch record, which, after today’s performance stands at 87Kg.

Speaking afterwards, Sasser commented “I’m really happy, but it was really hard. I’m thanking God that I came through it”.

From the start, it was clear she was focused, her voice could be heard as she left the stage, demonstrating just how determined she was to perform in front of the world and her on-looking teammates. Watching on, teammate and swimmer, Giordan Harris mentioned the importance of a strong team spirit especially amongst nations such as the Marshall Islands, who only have a small delegation at these Olympic Games.

With a clean sweep of Snatches, progressing through the weights, starting at 82Kg, moving onto 84Kg and successfully lifting 87Kg to set the Oceania Junior Record, Sasser put herself in a strong, third position going into the Clean and Jerk side of the competition.

After successfully lifting 110Kg in her first attempt at the Clean and Jerk, Sasser stumbled at 112Kg on the second attempt. However, this didn’t faze the impressive teenager as she went on to successfully lift the same weight at the third attempt, sending the crowd into raptures as she karate-kicked her way off the stage. The comeback from the hiccup on the second Clean and Jerk showed the exceptional confidence this young girl possesses, adding afterwards, “Obviously, I missed one, but I stood up to the challenge of finishing my set”.

Therefore, the score of 112Kg on the Clean and Jerk and 87Kg on the snatch, led to a combined total of 199Kg placing Sasser in second place in the group, only one kilogram behind the group leader, Sabine Kusterer of Germany. Sasser’s strong performance also placed her above Sweden, Ukraine, UEA and fellow Oceania lifters and rivals, Jenly Wini of the Solomon Islands and Tia-Clair Toomey of Australia.

The journey Sasser has travelled on in the last few years is remarkable. She only started weightlifting five years ago and in that time has taken Gold in every youth and junior event, as well as crossing over and medalling in the senior categories, of competitions she has entered.

Marshall Islands Weightlifting Federation President, Minister Anthony Muller said, “the work ethic of Mattie, her team and her coach, in the small village of Laura where they train, is what it takes to become an elite athlete. Weightlifting is not a seasonal sport, so she has to keep up this level of commitment year round.”

She has soared up the weightlifting rankings, reaching a position of 30th in 2015. Indeed, her progress over the last nine months has been remarkable in its own right. Before these Olympics, she improved her total by 13kg and broke eight combined junior and senior records at the Oceania Weightlifting championships, breaking a record every time she stepped up to the bar.  As a junior athlete, she won the senior 58kg Oceania Championships, set a new senior Oceania clean and jerk record and was awarded female junior and senior lifter of the Olympic qualifier.  Following the 2016 Oceania Championships, Sasser ranked 4th on the IWF Junior 58kg list and 18th in the senior ranking.

Although an extremely motivated person herself, the work of her team around her has helped to get her where she is now.

“Important parts of my team are the National Olympic Committee and Olympic Solidarity, without whose support for me to train and travel to competition, my Olympic dream would not have been possible,” said Sasser. 

A lot of this work in the background is conducted by coach and father, Terry Sasser, who on the day of his daughter’s Olympic debut, watched on from the side of the stage;

“I’m very proud today, she’s broken more records.  As we look toward Tokyo 2020, in addition to weightlifting, she's got her college career and other life decisions.  She would have to commit to her continued schedule of training and recovery eight hours per day six days per week.  So it has to be her decision.  But, I believe the experience of competing at the Rio Games will be the impetus to continue her commitment.”

After today’s performance, it is safe to say that Sasser has exploded onto the world stage. Her performance being featured across the world in numerous countries including Guam, India, Bulgaria, Spain, Ireland and the USA. Notably appearing in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. 

By Simon Thompson of The Reporters' Academy


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