n December 2017, Team USA sent four Under 15 lifters to Lima, Peru to compete in the South American Junior & Youth Championships & Tamas Ajan Cup on December 13-17:
Haley Trinh – 53kg
Abby Raymond – 58kg
Dean Goad – 69kg
Julia Yun – +75kg
All four lifters represented Team USA admirably bringing home multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals and a Best Lifter award.
I spoke to event coach, Ben Hwa, of Hasslefree Barbell Club, about Team USA’s trip to Lima:
Why did you attend this competition?
There are levels that lifters go through. When you lift in a gym, it’s one thing. When you go to an international meet and win a medal, you are motivated to work even harder and you want to experience it again.
When I saw the invitation to this competition, I immediately recognized it as a good opportunity for our kids. When kids go to these meets, they come back so motivated. I took two of our 13-year old lifters, Julia and Haley. I wanted to show them how good they are in this sport to really help them commit.
Did the competition meet your expectations?
My expectations of the competition were low. I had gone to Columbia a few months before, and I was not expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised. Lima was very nice. It is right by the ocean. The food was really good. The people were friendly. And the meet was well organized for a South American event.
More importantly, though, it was great to see all of the 15 & Under kids–kids who I could see at the next Youth Worlds or Junior Worlds or even the Olympics. Even in other countries, everyone starts at the same place.
What lessons did you learn from this competition?
Being in Peru gave me full faith in my reason for coaching. I like being able to guide kids into a path that is full of success and growth and opportunity. I saw the Peruvian coaches and the Columbian coaches. They were all so supportive of the kids.
It also made me want to be a better coach. My athletes invest their time training with me, and I always want to be there for them. Sure, these competitions cost money–a lot of money sometimes–but as a coach, you have to be willing to give back to your athletes, even if it means taking time off work and spending money to travel. As a coach, you can preach all you want, but when it comes down to it, are you willing to sacrifice your money to be there for your athletes?
Why are competitions like this so important for youth weightlifters?
Weightlifting offers travel opportunities like no other sport. When kids get to see the world, they mature.
They see that the world is bigger than their neighborhood. They see others who are in true poverty. It helps them appreciate the things they have.
They understand how lucky they are. This perspective helps these lifters focus better in practice.
When you give kids opportunities to learn and grow, they become more mature, and their weightlifting comes along with it.
Do you want to see more opportunities like this in the future?
Absolutely. This is how we invest in the future of weightlifting. Something that we can do as a governing body is invest in trips. These kids come back different lifters. The more kids we can give this opportunity, the better.
Will Team USA return to this competition in 2018?
According to Phil Andrews, C.E.O. of USA Weightlifting, “We plan to go again this year if we are invited to do so. I thought it was a great competition, and Ben did really well in his coaching position.”
Photo Credit: Amy Yun