For US Lifters, It Flies, Then Cleans And Shakes


TOKYO – The travel version of a weight lifting attempt: months of preparation, a few minutes to adjust, a short burst of all-out effort, and hopefully a winning result.

The Tokyo Games have been a logistical nightmare for athletes and their coaches from around the world. In a typical year, Olympic teams and athletes arrive in the host country weeks in advance to acclimatize. This year, the coronavirus – and Japanese health regulations – has created a series of hurdles.

Overcoming them became its own Olympic sport. Are you arriving a few weeks early or arriving at the last minute? Training and traveling in one program or tailoring programs for each athlete? For weightlifters in the United States, the answer led to an unusual itinerary for their visit to Japan: Let’s call it a sports surgery strike.

“We looked at the logistics of how hard it was to get people into the country, and the paradigm was pretty stifling,” said Mike Gattone, head coach of the U.S. Olympic weightlifting team. “So we started looking at how close we could get to adapting and spending time together, as well as allowing family and friends to participate.

“All of this led us to Hawaii.”

To limit cutbacks and create an environment they believe is conducive to Olympic success, the US team set up a training camp in Honolulu, an eight-hour flight from Japan, in early July. There, the lifters were training, but in Tokyo time, which was 19 hours ahead. Jeffrey Durmer, a neurologist who is the team’s sleep expert, has created programs for athletes that involve sleeping late and working into the night to simulate being in Tokyo.

The real test is the next step. Instead of flying together to the Games as the team would do in a normal year, the American lifters head to Japan one by one and two at a time depending on their competition date. After landing, the lifters finish their activity in just a few hours and fly home the next day. No one will wait for the closing ceremony.

Instead of a crowded environment, lifters are only accompanied by a personal trainer and two team trainers during the Olympic portion of their journey. They communicate with nutritionists, sports psychologists, and supporters via phone or videoconference and rely on other experts from the U.S. Olympic team for a short window while on the ground in Japan.

Durmer, who also works as a sleep specialist for NFL teams, said he started lifters on sleep protocols before arriving in Hawaii from their nationwide homes. He tailored each athlete’s schedule to when the competition was expected.

“Some sleep later, eat later, so they’re ready when they arrive in Tokyo,” he said.

Durmer provided the athletes with blackout curtains for their rooms, sleep masks, sound machines that produce white noise, chamomile tea, and small amounts of melatonin (the so-called dark hormone) to ensure they get enough rest. “If you look at sleep, it’s the foundation on which everything else is built,” he said. “You’d feel bad if you didn’t eat and it would ruin everything if you didn’t sleep.”

“A little extra sleep can strengthen psychological abilities, so when you raise the bar, you have a positive intuition of what you can do against being tired.”

The challenge for team officials and doctors is to prevent athletes from enjoying Hawaii too much. They can sit by the pool but are encouraged to stay out of the sun. They are told to limit the use of electronic devices before bedtime. Family and friends are allowed to visit with caution, if any.

Competing in the 49 kilograms (approximately 108 pounds) category, Jourdan Delacruz flew from Georgia to Hawaii and gradually started the transition to Japanese time, staying up late at night, eventually waking up as late as 11am. The athlete will also fly to Japan and arrive on Saturday, July 18, less than a week before the competition. His family had planned to travel to Tokyo, but decided to meet him in Hawaii on Sunday, when he would later return to Honolulu.

“This isn’t just my first Olympics, so I don’t know about the Olympic experience, but it happens during the pandemic, so there are other unique circumstances,” Delacruz said in an interview in early July. Said.

On Saturday, Delacruz secured her first two lifts in the snatch portion of the program, but failed at 89 kilograms (about 196 pounds) on her third attempt, good enough for her third of eight lifts in her group. On the clean and dirt side, though, he failed to complete all three attempts at 108 kilograms (almost 240 pounds). Just like that, his Olympics and his journey came to an end.

“Looking back, I feel like I put everything I had before,” Delacruz said of his preparation and final result. “Something like that happens sometimes.”


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