RMI's Mattie Sasser Excels at Mini Games

At this week’s 2013 Pacific Mini Games in Wallis and Futuna, with only eight sports on the Mini Games program, focused heavily on Commonwealth sports like sailing and rugby 7s, some of RMI’s most competitive sports —  swimming wrestling and fastpitch softball — are missing from the competition.

Marshall Islands National Olympic Committee (MINOC) fielded competitors in weightlifting and taekwondo. The first to compete before the deadline for this week’s paper in the women 58kg (128lb) weightlifting category was 16-year old Mattie Jacob Sasser, originally from Enejit Island in Mili Atoll. Mattie is the two-year reigning Oceania
Champion in the Youth (17 years and under) division, and this summer in Brisbane she also captured the title of
Oceania Junior (20 years and under) Champion.

All of her competitions to this point have been divided into age groups, so the Pacific Mini Games as her first open (no age limit) competition.

“My goal is to make six out of my six possible lifts and achieve a personal best in competition,” Mattie said of her Mini Games expectations prior to her competition.

The first Olympic lift of the competition is the snatch, which is a single movement of the barbell from the platform to the full extent of both arms above the head. Mattie’s first successful snatch attempt was 65kg (143lb). Her  second snatch was a competition personal best of 70kg (154lb). For her third snatch, she again broke her own  personal best that she had achieved just minutes before with a lift of 72kg (159lb), winning a silver medal.

“There is a big difference between practice and competition,” said Marshall Islands Weightlifting Federation President Tony Muller. “In practice, a lifter can try as many times as needed to achieve a personal record. In competition, the lifter has only three attempts. In addition, the athlete must battle through the nervousness brought on by a  countdown timer, judges, other competitors, the noise of the audience, and photographers. What our lifters are accomplishing at a young age is world class.”

After a silver medal in the snatch and a 10-minute rest between the sessions, Mattie warmed up for the clean and jerk competition. The first part of this Olympic lift, the clean, is a single movement from the platform to the shoulders. In the second part, the jerk, the athlete bends the legs and extends them as well as the arms to bring the barbell to the full stretch of the arms vertically extended.

Mattie’s opening clean and jerk was a solid 85KG (187lb). The second lift of 90kg (198lb) bested her previous  competition personal record. The weight of her final lift attempt was 94kg (207lb), a weight she has lifted several times in practice, but not in competition.

“Due to the heat in the venue, I was really sweating and the weight began to slip from my grasp and as I adjusted it, my knee touched the platform, which was a fault and not counted as a completed lift. No excuse. I should have been able to overcome this.”

However, her second lift surpassed Papua New Guinea’s lifter to win her second silver and a third silver for combined total result (162kg/357lbs).

This marks RMI’s first weightlifting medals at a Pacific Games and the most medals won by a Marshallese athlete at a Pacific Games. Mattie came in second only to Jenlyn Tegu Wini, a 30-year old veteran lifter from Solomon Islands, who competed last summer at the London Olympic Games.

“Mattie’s total of 162kg would have ranked her in the top 15 at this year’s World Youth Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

“If she had made the 94kg clean and jerk, she would rank in the top 10 in the world,” said MINOC Secretary General and weightlifting coach Terry Sasser.

“Although I did not win the gold, I am very happy with my performance,” said Mattie.

“We continue to be  extremely proud of the efforts of our young weightlifters,” said MINOC President Kenneth Kramer. “Marshall Islands Weightlifting is proving to be a great force to be reckoned with in Oceania. They continue to show that hard work and commitment can bring success.”




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