Mattie Wins Silver in Reno
Marshall Islands weightlifter Mathlynn “Mattie” Sasser made history for the RMI at the American Open earlier this month, beating 64 of the best women weightlifters in the US to win a silver medal, while breaking an Oceania Junior record that has stood for 14 years.
Marshall Islands Weightlifting Federation’s (MIWLF) national lifters Sasser and Kabuati “Tao” Bob competed for the first time at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships in Houston, Texas and the 2015 American Open in Reno, Nevada recently.
Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center hosted nearly 750 athletes representing 113 member federations and 105 countries for the International Weightlifting Federation’s World Championships. Despite the fact that both lifters suffered severe cases of chikungunya prior to the Pacific Games and spent several recovering their pre-illness strength, both Mattie and Tao’s Pacific Games lift totals qualified them to compete at the World Championships, which includes the best weightlifters in the world and is a key qualification tournament for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
In the 58KG (127LB) women’s competition, Mattie competed against 37 international contestants. Mattie’s 80KG (176LB) snatch and 103KG (227LB) clean and jerk (183KG/ 403LB total) beat lifters from Iceland, Finland, Ireland, Denmark, Mongolia and Thailand and were personal competition bests.
Tao, who was nursing an injured shoulder and was unsure if he would be able to lift until the day of competition, took the platform in the men’s 85KG (187LB) competition. Head Coach Terry Sasser said, “Tao honestly should not have lifted, but we tested him in the warm-up room and felt he could still have a respectable tournament. His 275KG/ 606LB total was not his best performance, but still enabled him to post qualifying lifts to earn the valuable qualification points needed in his quest for Rio qualification.”
Due to the close scheduling and relatively near location, Marshall Islands’ lifters traveled from Houston straight to Reno, Nevada to compete in the annual American Open weightlifting tournament. After the World Championships, the athletes had 10 days before the American Open. This time was spent rehabbing Tao’s shoulder and focusing their practice on the heavy lifting required in competition.
Tao was still favoring his injured shoulder, but was able to take advantage of the physiotherapists at both events. In his 85KG competition against 171 other lifters at the American Open, Tao snatched 120KG (265LB) and cleaned and jerked 160KG (353LB) for a 280KG (617LB) total and 22nd place finish.
“It was really frustrating,” said Tao, “because I know I am much stronger than these lifts, but my shoulder injury prevented me from lifting the weights I am capable of.”
Mattie was up against 65 of America’s top female lifters in the 58KG category. She again snatched 80KG (176LB), which put her in fourth place. After the snatch portion of the competition, Mattie found herself 7KG behind a third place podium finish. While her final and best clean and jerk lift at the Pacific Games was 97KG, her first clean and jerk on the scoreboard at the American Open was 100KG.
“We knew Mattie had a stronger clean and jerk than the two American lifters who were her main competition,” said Coach Terry. “We were confident that if she was able to reach her full potential, she could make up the snatch difference with her clean and jerk lift.”
Of her competition, Mattie said, “I told my coach I felt strong and wanted to go for it. I knew if I could show him this in the warm-up room he would let me go for the record. After seeing me lift strong in the warm-up room, Coach increased my first clean and jerk to 102KG.”
Mattie’s successful 102KG opening clean and jerk secured the American Open clean and jerk bronze medal. But she wanted to make a stronger statement and take an American Open medal for her overall total. Most of the other lifters had already completed all their lifts. A clean and jerk silver medal and overall total bronze medal would require a successful 105KG lift.
“I was sitting in the holding room next to the other remaining lifter,” said Mattie. “Just before I went out for my 105KG lift, my coach came over and said, ‘Do this for yourself. Do this for your country. Do this for Iroijalplap Jurelang. It is time for you to deliver.’ Walking up the steps to the platform, I gave myself no excuse. There were Marshallese friends watching my competition and I knew there were many watching the live web streaming back home. I had lifted this weight earlier in the week during practice and now it was time to do it in competition. This weight was going up.”
And it did. Her successful 105KG clean and jerk secured the clean and jerk silver medal and the bronze medal for her overall total. With one lift remaining, the only challenge left was the Oceania Junior record that had stood for 15 years.
“Breaking the Oceania Junior record is a personal goal I have that I have been working and training toward for a long time,” said Mattie.
“Her successful 105KG lift had matched the Oceania Junior record for the clean and jerk,” said Coach Terry. “She only needed to lift one more kilogram to break that record, she was lifting strong and she had one more lift attempt.”
Mattie’s successful 106KG (233.69LB) clean and jerk won the American Open clean and jerk silver medal, the American Open bronze medal for her overall total (186KG/ 410LB) and broke the Oceania Junior clean and jerk record held by Tyoni Batsiua of Nauru since 2001.