The IWF statement June 26, 3011:
I knew I had to go to nationals, even though I had two weeks to prepare.
Items on my to do list: gearing remaining training time for the competition date, figuring out competition clothing, my diet, travel arrangements, completion of press interviews in response to the IWF ruling.
I try to eat well in general, but not knowing I could compete, I did not pay attention to it. I had to weigh 48kg for the competition and two weeks to plan my weight cutting. I weighed 50.4kg at the time. We figured if I could get to 49kg when we got to the hotel Thursday, I could safely lose 1kg of water. Part of that I lost by drinking enough water (2/3 of a gallon in one day) which flushed out salt and toxins (that got me to about 50kg).
Unitard: I was able to get at a dance supply store.
The singlet: There was no time to order a custom made one, and purchasing one online that was a bigger size would be a risk. A friend of mine from Georgia Tech that takes gymnastics with me had a roommate (Elise Beisecker) who is very skilled at sewing (she makes her own riding uniforms-she competes and teaches horse vaulting). She kindly made my singlet for me and I was able to get good material from a fabrics store in Atlanta. I got a polyester lycra blend and stuck with solid black to be on the safe side (no glitters, sequins or bright colors for now). She made it in a day, and I went back a few times for adjustments. I also got a chance to practice in it a few times. I already had a matching hijab (head scarf), and just had to purchase long socks and some knee pads.
First iteration of singlet adjustment was to put elastic at the leg cuffs, shorten the sleeves in case the elbows needed to be seen at all times. Elise had given me 1-1.5 inches of clearance at the seams, any more shrinkage, and it would not have been comfortable for me, she said, also getting to snug. I also felt that, the tighter I made it, the less chance of other women wanting to participate in this sport. Muslim women dress differently, such as, some might wear a headscarf, some might not. I nor anyone has the right to judge them or any other woman, we all have our reasons and decisions in how we practice modesty.
I left the singlet as is, and practiced lifting in it twice during training. I did have a worry that I might be denied the chance to lift because the singlet did not have the look as everyone else’s. My singlet was still the one piece shape of a singlet, it was only looser. I had hopes that even though this was going to be “different” than the norm, people would get used to the idea of the look of a looser singlet as an option.
Entire album link singlet construction
Hijab (head scarf): I just went with what I usually wear, and just made it match the black.
I was aware that there were people in the weightlifting community that were not in agreement with the decision on the uniform modification. I tried not to read the internet message boards. I wanted to focus on the positive and supportive people. So I was not aware exactly who had these feelings.
Arthur (Artie) Drechsler, USAW chair of the board, emailed me:
He congratulated me on the IWF ruling, happy that the USAW could assist in bringing the matter to the IWF for their consideration and was happy that this would allow more women to compete in weightlifting.
He said he had tried to get a costume change as well, but for the reasons that a leg covering would reduce skin damage and also keep the legs stay warm. He was happy with my success and commended my determination and presentation.
He informed me that the upcoming National Championships represented the 30th anniversary of Women’s Weightlifting in the US, at the National Championships level and fitting that the costume modifcation would debut then.
I had drop 1 kg for the weigh in (I weighed about 49kg). Weightlifters and wrestlers tend to lose water weight the day of or prior to their weigh in. But it was not common for me as this was my first experience.
In addition, there was no sauna at the hotels. I believe there was sauna access at an offsite location, but I don’t remember the reason why I did not have the ability to go there, if it was time, or if it was not available Thursday. Also, we could not find sauna suits at the Wal-Mart in Atlanta or Council Bluffs, IA. So I was going to have to go with another method, fill a tub with the hottest water one can possibly stand, and put a container of salt into it. Then you sit in it for 10-20 minutes, no more than 30.
Because of that, we went to the venue earlier to do some lifts (they had set up the warm up area). A few people were there, some came in and out during the time we were there. It was good, as I was nervous and I think going helped me to get over some qualms. One girl in my weight class came to me and wished luck. So did a few others. I appreciated them taking the time to show these kind gestures because they also had the stress of competing. I was glad to see my fellow competitors were supportive.
That night, I dropped my cell phone into the tub of water. ( I was texting my coach on the timing and weighing). It made it difficult for those who wanted to contact me or find me. (I did not get a working cell phone till late Friday night).
Friday morning, 7/15/11 day of my competition:
I ran to Walmart to get another cell phone, another container of salt, some fruit and salmon so I would have something to eat after weigh in. I found out later, the phone would not work with my SIM card. When I got back to the hotel, I found that I lost .1kg of weight from this Walmart run.
I had to do one more hot water/salt bath. I was at 48.1 kg and to be on the safe side, needed to be 47.9kg to take in account any discrepancies in my scale v.s. the scale at the competition. Then I had to get my things together, pack, reprint my USAW membership card (I forgot to replace the expired one in my wallet). We were staying in a hotel in Omaha because the hotel near the venue was sold out.
I made it late to my weigh in, but right after the last lady took her turn. We got dropped at the wrong entrance and had to run to get to the right door. I am sure that made me lose a little weight too.
I went to the closed room with female officials and stepped on the scale. 47.87kg YEAH! It was close and I made it. I went back outside, and my coaches were waiting anxiously. Travis asked what the result was. I was going to make a joke but decided against it and told him that, and said it was all fine.
My coaches went to finalize the hotel check in. I fortunately packed some food with me ahead of time: banana, canned salmon and water.
My coach came back, and I asked him to take me to the gas station nearby so I could purchase Gatorade because it was hard for me to drink the water I needed that fast. At the hotel, I only had 25 minutes to drink, eat and change since food and drink were not allowed in the venue.
I did not not have a warm-up suit or anything to wear on top of my uniform for before lifting and for when you walk out to the stage to get introduced with others in your weight class.
Since this was my first competition, I did not know I had to cover up prior so I borrowed my coaches shirt, so I could slip it on and off quickly over the hijab. I also wore some workout pants. Good thing there was good AC at the venue because I was wearing multiple layers.
In the back warm up area, a female official said I needed to have separation between the socks, knee pads and singlet. I was not sure why, since I had a unitard underneath, but at that point, I just did it. I met her the next day and she said she did not realize that it is not necessary to show separation since a unitard was underneath anyway.
Another competitor, Anne Lehman, wore the black triathlon unitard tights. She said skin color was not necessary, a unitard could be another color, as long as it was one color solid.
My next singlet will then overlap the knee pads, at least not cover the knee area so the judges can see the lockout. I will also keep socks and leg coverings up to the knee so basically I know now I shouldn’t be told to have a separation between the leg/calf cover, knee wraps/pad, and singlet. It is something I would prefer, as I would like to be able to have the most coverage I can possibly have, even though the unitard is underneath.
I started my warmups, and when I got to 35 kg in the snatch, I missed it. I started reverting back to bad habits, such as ripping the bar off the floor to quickly out of nervousness, leaning forward on my heels (when one is supposed to stay back). My coach thought I should make my first lift lower than we planned (38kg instead of 41kg). I made that 38kg, it was not my best, it was slower than I could and usually do (I was focusing more on technique and making sure I made that lift), but I made it. I locked my arms as much as possible, stood up and held it until the judge made the signal for the OK for me to drop the bar, and even after that signal I felt like holding on a second longer to make sure it was held long enough with that lockout. I had something on the board for the snatch lift. After that I had some sigh of relief. Two more attempts at snatch, then the clean and jerk session which started 10 minutes after all the ladies in my 48kg session had completed their attempts.
The next snatch attempt was OK too, 41kg. For the third attempt, 43kg, I still leaned forward, and hence I missed it. Clean and jerk, I was doing OK in the warmup, but coach thought lets go for 50kg for the first attempt, not 53kg like we planned. I did it, no press out in the elbows, and again held on tight and for an extra second till the judge called, down. 55kg was the second attempt, I had some press-out (I dip down too fast when I get nervous), but it was easy. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I will try for a higher weight on the third attempt. I focused better on this one, and had a straight drive, no press out. I heard shouts of encouragement, that this was my last lift, and go for it.
Final total: 41+57=98kg.
Video of the lifts here:
*new* Another set of video clips of my lifts @ USAW 2011 Nationals 7/15/2011 by Jim Schmitz, better lighting & different angle.
I definitely felt like I could have gotten higher, and my potential is also higher, but for my first national meet, I was glad I got a total, and no missed or uncounted lifts. I could finally breath and sit down. I changed, went out to the spectator area and met with the AP reporter, Luke Merideth and Tala Hadavi (for the VOA Persian news service — Link to Farsi video and link to English video version )
There were some cold stares (perhaps they were tired or thinking about their competition), smirks and laughing smiles, but I would like to say most people were supportive and friendly. When I went to the platform to lift, I did not hear boos, I heard encouragement, people telling me to go for it. I tried to focus on that, and on my lift. I really think many people were rooting for me.
After the competition, a few did come up to me, introduced themselves and congratulated me. One man told me to continue to compete, and that we need more brave people like you. I really appreciated his sentiment.
I felt tentative at times, because I was not sure who was supportive, and who was not happy about the clothing situation. In general, I tend to be quiet, so it takes some time for me to get to know people, but I am hopeful that as I attend more competitions, there will be more friendships.
I do hope for future competitions, I can have family and/or friends there with me. It was too expensive, tickets at the point of when I found out I could compete were in the $500-600 range (thanks to those who donated for this trip). For my mother, it is hard for her to see me lift, as she worries I am going to get hurt. Now that I have gone through this experience, and I know I can compete, I can plan things out better, and do what I need to do so things will not be as chaotic.
Upcoming competitions and sponsorship:
- 2011 Georgia Games (8/06/2011 Newnan, Georgia)
Ramadan will be starting approx August 1, so I would most likely be fasting for that meet. I have trained before while fasting, so I think it should not be too bad since a competition is not as intense
- 2011 American Masters (11/12-11/13/2011 Savannah, Georgia)
I turned 35 this year (and because of the uniform modification), I am eligible for masters national competitions as well.
- 2011 American Open (12/2-12/4/2011 Mobile, Alabama)
This is the one I could not attend in 2010, the second senior national meet held in the calendar year.