Spanish Weightlifting Team visits the Arnold

From February 28th to March 2nd 2014, Columbus, OH hosted the 2014 annual Arnold Sports Festival and Fitness Weekend.  On a yearly basis, this event has become to be known as the most exciting weightlifting competition in the United States as well as throughout North America.  In the 12th edition of the Arnold Olympic Weightlifting Championships, Event director Mark Cannella; who served as one of the 2012 US Summer Olympic Games coaches, made sure this year was no different. 

One of the highlights of this weekend was the appearance of several members of the Spanish National Weightlifting Team.  Their presence had been a project in the making for over 10 months between USA Weightlifting and the Spanish Weightlifting Federation.  Led by USAW board member Michael Graber, USA Weightlifting (USAW) sent an invitation for the Spanish Team to attend the 2014 Arnold Sports Festival and Fitness Weekend in June 2013.  Board Member Jennifer S. Ullman was instrumental in serving as one of the lead translators on the project as well as proving other strategic support.  To draw support for a potential visit, a Facebook page was set up “To Bring the Spanish Team to the 2014 Arnolds.”  In October 2013 at the World Championships of Olympic Weightlifting in Wroclaw, Poland; Graber met with the President of the Spanish Federation and details were finalized for Lydia Valentin (Two-time Olympian), Alejandro Gonzalez (Spanish World Team Member), Andres Mata (2012 Olympian) and Matias Fernandez (Spanish National Coach) to attend the 2014 Arnold Sports Festival and Fitness Weekend.

To help fray the costs of the team’s visit to the USA, Graber established a Weightlifting Seminar that was held on Friday, February 28th 2014 at Endeavor Defense and Cross Fit in Hilliard, OH; which happens to be the “Home of Columbus Weightlifting.”  Columbus Weightlifting President and Coach Mark Cannella was very happy to help out, along with owner Aaron Janetti, as both men were busy running the Olympic Weightlifting and Cross Fit competitions at this year’s Arnold Championships.  From November 2013 through January 2014, over 30 people signed up to attend the Spanish National Team’s seminar.  Attendees came from all over the USA; Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Jersey, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio.

The weightlifting seminar was a great success, and was able to raise enough money to cover the team’s travel costs.  For over three hours the Spanish team discussed proper technique and the strategies they use to prepare for the success they have had at an international level.  Assisting with the seminar were “The Two Doctors” of USAW webcast fame, Dr. David Boffa and Dr. Jonas Westbrook, who also happen to be former US National medalists.  Along with Graber who was a 2011 National Champion and Ohio State Record Holder Bob Davis.  Assisting with the translation for the Spanish team was Ullman of the USAW board of directors, former Jr. World Team member Ed Herger, and national level competitor Sayra Lopez Yever.  After the seminar the team posed for pictures and signed autographs with everyone. 

Friday night the Spanish team worked out in the training hall, and put on an exhibition for the passersby.  However the real show happened on Saturday, during four sessions of weightlifting, the venue was standing room only.  The Saturday 11:00 am session featured Lydia Valentin who successfully executed 5 of 6 attempts and finished the day with a 250 KG total.  This secured Lydia a first place overall finish in the women’s portion.  Every attempt was followed by many in the audience taking photos and video on their smartphones, and almost immediately uploading them to Facebook, Instagram and other social media websites.  The next two sessions featured the trials sessions for US women and men, and then was followed by a great group of international men and overflow from the American Trials session.  Spanish athlete Alejandro Gonzalez was able to total 315 KGs in the 85 KG weight class to finish in 7th place overall. 

On Sunday, the Spanish team was able to enjoy the Arnold Sports Festival and Fitness Weekend in the main EXPO hall.  The Spanish team’s visit to America helped facilitate meetings with American Weightlifting companies such as HookgripGlamlet AthleticsNike and Kilogear to utilize the popularity of the Spanish athletes.  On Saturday afternoon, Lydia Valentin even visited the Hookgrip booth to interact with fans and sign autographs.  The Spanish Federation’s trip will hopefully be the start of a friendship in this great sport between two great federations that will benefit many athletes and other weightlifting enthusiasts!

Thanks to everyone who helped to facilitate the Spanish team’s visit, especially Michael Massik, Phil Andrews, Carissa Gump, Peter Roselli and the entire USAW Board of Directors.

This article was contributed by Michael Graber and Jennifer Ullman, members of the USAW Board of Directors.