SALT LAKE CITY – All Sarah Robles wanted was a second chance. She earned it.
Robles is returning to the Olympic Games and Morghan King will be joining her after both athletes locked up spots at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Weightlifting.
Things did not play out the way Robles envisioned at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center. With two Olympic team spots available for the U.S. women, Robles came into the event as a heavy favorite to take one of them. But while her best clean and jerk lift of 150 kg. topped the +75 kg. weight category, she failed in all three snatch attempts at 118 kg.
It was only after Mattie Rogers (69 kg.) failed to lift 141 kg. on her final clean and jerk attempt that Robles could breathe a sigh of relief. Olympic selection for the final two women's spots is based on athletes' ability to medal, calculated from performances at four events. Robles led the pack with more than 96 percent heading into trials. Rogers was second, followed by King.
“It's definitely more emotional for me — that's for sure,” said Robles, who is coming back from a two-year suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. “I definitely dealt with a lot more emotional hard times going around this time. But I definitely had a good support system.”
Robles admitted to being in a little bit of a survival mode coming into the trials. Her goal was to put herself into a position where she was untouchable in sewing up an Olympic bid, but a stomach virus a few days earlier set her back. Then her struggles in the snatch lift tested Robles' mettle. She pulled through and returned to finish things off in the clean and jerk portion of the trials.
“I was halfway not wanting to actually finish the competition because my total wasn't going to count,” said Robles, whose qualifying efforts were aided by her performances in the three previous qualifying events. “I was technically disqualified. But my coach talked me back and talked me off the ledge. I realized with all the stuff I've been through this past quad that I'm not a quitter and this is especially not the time to quit.”
|Morghan King competes at the 2015 IWF World Championships on Nov. 22, 2015 in Houston.|
King clinched her Olympic slot after successfully lifting 100 kg. on her third attempt in the clean and jerk. She won the 48 kg. weight class with a total of 180 kg.
Reaching a total of 180 kg. had been a goal for King since 2013. She embraced a record-breaking mentality earlier in her career. To get to Rio, however, King just played to her strengths on her final clean and jerk attempt, and it paid off.
“I've done that lift hundreds of times in practice,” King said. “You kind of just have to go back and rely on your strengths and your confidence and just knowing you can go out there. And the people out there are so supportive. They want you to do that.”
Both women join Jenny Arthur, who already secured a spot in Rio with Team USA before Sunday's trials. Arthur qualified for the 2016 Games based on total points she earned at the 2014 and 2015 world championships. She took 14th place at the 2014 world championships and then finished eighth in 2015.
Arthur totaled 239 kg. on Sunday to win the 75 kg. weight class. She had a best snatch of 104 kg. and a best clean and jerk of 135 kg.
“I wanted to put in a solid total going into the Olympics,” Arthur said. “That's what we were shooting for.”
Other notable performances on the women's side included Jessica Lucero and Rogers, who both set records.
Lucero set three new American records for the 58 kg. weight class. She completed a 93 kg. snatch on her third attempt, and then followed it up with 115 kg. on her third clean and jerk attempt. Her total of 208 kg. set the third record.
Rogers set one record and matched another in the 69 kg. class. She lifted a snatch of 106 kg. on her second attempt and matched her total record of 238 kg. after a clean and jerk of 132 kg. on her second attempt.
On the men's side, eight weightlifters advanced to the Pan American Championships in June in Colombia with one slot to Rio on the line. The eight qualifiers are Kendrick Farris, Norik Vardanian, Alex Lee, Caine Wilkes, James Tatum, Wesley Kitts, Travis Cooper and Donovan Ford.
Farris won the 94 kg. weight class after he set an American record with a total of 377 kg. A clean and jerk of 209 kg. helped push Farris over the top. Farris is seeking his third Olympic bid after previously competing in the Beijing 2008 Games and London 2012 Games, where he finished eighth and 10th.
“I just wanted to come into this competition and see if I could push for the No. 1 ranking,” Farris said. “We were able to do that, so I feel good about doing it. We'll be ready to go in the next few weeks down in Colombia.”
John Coon is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.