PATTAYA, Thailand – As an elite athlete, weightlifter Harrison Maurus has learned to expect the unexpected.
That adaptability came in handy on Sunday, the day of the men’s 81 kg. competition at the 2019 IWF World Championships.
As he slept in preparation for perhaps the biggest day of his year, Maurus was awoken by the unexpected.
“Yeah, about that. It’s been an interesting day for me,” Maurus smirked when asked about his morning. “About 2:30 this morning the pipes burst in the service area next to my room, and I had a waterfall develop in my bathroom. It came straight out of the ceiling. It was pretty interesting to wake up to, I didn’t really know what to do.”
Maurus and two other U.S. lifters had to move into new rooms, and he was back to bed at 4:30 a.m. to continue readying for his big day.
His day would only go up from there.
That afternoon, the 19-year-old competed in his third senior world championships.
“I don’t know if I can say it right now,” he laughed when asked how he felt about his performance in Thailand. “Not a good one.”
He missed his first two snatch attempts but was successful on the third and final. All three were at 152 kg.
“Luckily I was talking to Pyrros [Dimas, USA Weightlifting’s technical director and a three-time Olympic champion for Greece] and was able to reign it back in, get out there and make it pretty easy on the third,” Maurus reflected. “Definitely wasn’t ideal, but I’m very thankful I was able to put it together and make it. It’s not typical for me, so it’s good to see I can still pull through.”
Rebounding with confidence, the junior and two-time youth world medalist then made his first two clean & jerks of 191 and 198 kg. before going for broke and raising the bar to 205 for his third. His previous best was 200; if hit, 205 would break the junior world record and Pan American record, as well as his own American, junior American and junior Pan American records.
He “Clarked” his third attempt, a weightlifting term meaning he lifted the bar to about belt-high and let it go.
“I’m going to have to look at some video,” Maurus reflected. “It felt like my knees buckled a little, that’s maybe one of five cleans I’ve ever Clarked in my life so it’s definitely atypical for me.”
Still, Maurus put up a total of 350 kg., which tied his total from his silver-medal performance at this summer’s Pan American Games Lima 2019 – which marked USA Weightlifting’s 100th medal in Pan American Games history – and was the second-highest total of his career competing at 81 kg.
“I had an idea (coming in that I wanted to break those records), but really the goal was to put up another total above 350 or at 350,” he said. “My best so far has been a 357 last year at worlds. Coming back from injury, hitting another 350 after the Pan Am Games with all the changes I’ve made lately has been pretty good, but obviously I would’ve loved to have that 205.”
Maurus competed in the B session, and once the category was finished with the A session he would learn he finished an impressive fifth place in the clean & jerk; the 205 would have been good for bronze. He was 18th in snatch and ninth total.
It was a strong return to the international stage for the teenager.
As a 17-year-old senior worlds rookie, Maurus earned bronze in the 77 kg. clean & jerk and total, ending a 20-year U.S. men’s medal drought. Though nine nations were missing from that meet due to suspensions, it set him up for an exciting senior career and put lofty expectations on his shoulders.
With newly designated weight categories by the International Weightlifting Federation, Maurus moved up to 81 for last year’s worlds and placed sixth total, with the fourth-best clean & jerk – a solid performance at the first meet of the 18-month Olympic qualification period.
His path toward Olympic qualification was halted five months ago when he suffered two bulged discs in his back while back-squatting and had to spend six to eight weeks out of the gym, missing both the junior and senior Pan American championships.
The injury led to location, coaching and gym changes for Maurus. Now fully healed, he is transitioning from his hometown of Auburn, Washington, to Dacula, Georgia, where he joins Team Power & Grace, which includes 2019 world team members Jourdan Delacruz and Morghan King, and coach Spencer Arnold.
All are changes that he hopes better his chance at his ultimate goal: the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“That’s what we’re all pushing for,” Maurus said. “I think 350 was another step in the right direction; obviously would’ve liked more but it’s a lot of points and it’s replacing lower scores from the beginning of the year, so it’s a kind of a game of persistence, a war of attrition almost. You just keep putting up good totals and hopefully it works.”