Ever since my wife and I started dating, she has insisted that I’m a “mark” for famous people. She very often says, “Chuck, they are just people like everyone else. Get over it!” She is right, but I cannot get over it. Before we got married I attended a wrestling show in Buffalo, NY in which I had the chance to meet my favorite wrestler of all-time, Hulk Hogan. How could I not get excited about that?!? Or the time I also met Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle. Again, how can you not get excited about the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet someone who won a gold medal in the Olympic Games.
Every time I travel to Ashland and speak with Jud I feel the same way. Nervous and excited. Nervous because Jud is a 4x Olympian. Excited because I can drive down to Ashland and speak with him, or even give him a call. It is just something about the environment that gets my adrenaline pumping as if I was competing again. The sensation occurred more often than I’d like to share, but I guess it is who I am.
I felt overwhelmed on more than one occasion when competing against AG Kruger and Kibwe Johnson, both Olympic Hammer throwers. Especially when you immediately follow AG Kruger after he threw 76m, and then the officials have to pull the tape in 50’ for your throw. Or the time I followed Kibwe after a massive throw at Kent State in the 35lb. Weight Throw. I tried following. It didn’t always go well, but I can’t think of many other sports in which you can compete with an Olympian.
I felt those same feelings today. Not at a track meet however, but at an Olympic Weightlifting competition.
Today I attended the 2018 USA Masters Olympic Weightlifting Championships, held in Buffalo, NY. I definitely marked out in every conversation I had with lifters and coaches from all over the country. One lifter in particular has been a great inspiration to me this year. She is partly responsible for me signing up for my first sprint triathlon. Her name is Veronica Muniz.
You never know how first impressions are going to go. The thought of meeting an ‘Instagram’ friend is a little nerve wrecking I must say. What will they be like, will they know who I am, or will they think you are weird for introducing yourself? Veronica far exceeded my expectations. It’s probably because we have a lot in common. Both educators, bilingual, parents, goal-oriented, and willing to step out of comfort zones. Veronica beat me to it though. She began weightlifting only a few years ago. And here she was, traveling all the way from Southern Texas to compete in Master’s Nationals. I’ll let Veronica share her story of how she finally made it to Buffalo. It only adds to her success and accomplishment of medaling today.
When I first read of Veronica’s story on Instagram, it caught my attention in more than one way. She is only a couple of years older than me, so when I read that she had just started weightlifting a few years ago I thought, “Wow, that is pretty cool to start Olympic weightlifting a little later than most would start!” She posts videos frequently, making it easy to follow her progress. She slowly was making progress. Then I saw that she entered Masters Nationals. That is when I really thought that I should try something too. Something out of my comfort zone that I’ve wanted to try for a long time. Veronica inspired me to register for my sprint triathlon.
Veronica’s focus and drive today was both humbling and inspiring. Inspiring because she registered for and competed in a National Championship event. Humbling because I know how much harder I need to work to reach the level of success she has reached. I am in no physical condition to compete in my age group Triathlon National Championships. I’m 50lbs. over the Clydesdale division (for men that weigh over 230lbs.). I know I would get smoked in that championship. I’m nowhere close to qualifying for it either. After watching Veronica compete today, I have found a new sense of hope and determination about my training, making sure I get all my training sessions in, rest, recover, and embrace the suck! Thank you, Veronica!
Veronica, thank you for the picture!
Veronica was not the only person that I found inspiration in today. I watched pretty much all the sessions this morning and afternoon. Lifter after lifter stepped onto the platform to give their all; to compete for a few minutes, to be judged, to be watched, to be inspiring. Lots of National Records with set in various weight classes and age groups. I felt my heart race a little bit more with each record attempt! It was great to be witness to the excellent competition today.
With all that said, I have to take step back for a moment, and really reflect on the time that everyone who has competed and will be competing in Masters Nationals. Hours and hours spent in the gym, away from families, making sacrifices to not miss training sessions, all to compete for a few minutes on a platform. I think that is why I’m so interested in Olympic Weightlifting. I find such stark similarities between Olympic Weightlifting and throwing. In throwing, much lifting weightlifting, athletes spend hundreds of hours training and preparing for a competition that lasts a couple of minutes. If we make the finals in throwing, we receive six throws. In weightlifting you get six attempts. Make a Snatch and a Clean & Jerk and you receive a total. Miss a Snatch and the meet is all but done. If you don’t throw far enough to make the top 8 or 9, you don’t make the finals in throwing. Lots of hard work, sweat, blood, and tears for about 10 seconds of ring time. Believe me, I have been there on multiple occasions. But if you don’t compete against the best and really test yourself, you’ll never know how you’ll compete.
Much like today, that is what throwing is like. In no other sport will I be able to compete in the same flight as Olympic throwers. Similar in weightlifting, today I got the chance to watch Daniel Camargo compete. Former US Olympic Training Center resident and elite International weightlifter, Daniel is the owner of Camargos Oly Concepts, an Olympic Weightlifting gym located just outside of Orlando, FL. Coming off of shoulder surgery, Daniel went 6/6 today and won his weight class. Mind you, after coaching some of his athletes in the session immediately before his. I did that on more than one occasion when I was younger, inexperienced, and didn’t know better. Reflecting back now, my athletes suffered so I could have competed. Today, it seemed otherwise for Daniel’s athletes. I’m not sure what he is like not in competition, but his athletes have thus far performed extremely well at Masters Nationals. He definitely figured out a way to coach his athletes to the best of his ability, all while preparing to compete himself, in the hopes of securing a spot on the Masters Worlds team, which he indeed qualified for.
To all the lifters and coaches that took the time out of their day to speak with me, thank you! Thank you for competing and for being inspiring. I learned a lot about Olympic Weightlifting today. I learned about support systems, family dynamics, and self-determination. Nobody makes us compete. We have something inside us. Something different. Something that others don’t have. Something others may not understand. They may never understand. What it takes to train hundreds of hours for in order to compete for a couple of minutes. What it means to sacrifice time spent with family and friends to get better at a sport that most people don’t understand. Most importantly, you inspired me and humbled me. Thank you.
Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.