COLORADO SPRINGS - While Pam Rush was driving to participate in the recent Harvest Open weightlifting competition in Colorado Springs, numerous thoughts were bouncing around in her head, but one stood out above the rest."What am I thinking?" recalled Rush, who lives and trains in Breckenridge. "I'm 53 years old and have never done anything like this before. What the hell am I doing?"Sixty-five competitors at the Harvest Open, which took place on Oct. 27, were given two different exercises to perform: The clean and jerk (the barbell is lifted from the floor to the shoulders in one movement, then pressed above the head in another) and the power snatch (the barbell is lifted from the floor to overhead in one rapid movement).It turns out Rush did know what she was doing with those lifts. Not only did she complete five of six lifts, posting personal bests in the power snatch and the overall, she took home first-place honors in the women's masters division with a total weight of 48 kilograms (105.6 pounds)."I was very nervous lifting in front of a crowd, almost to the point of nausea," she said. "It was an interesting experience, but a very fun one as well."
A self-proclaimed couch potato, who once preferred reading a good book and watching snow fall to competing, Rush explained her motivation for getting into weightlifting."I wanted to do something that would help my skiing," said Rush, who began Olympic lifting three years ago. "One of my friends was doing power lifting and I got involved with her. I started training with Chris (Hughes) and we joked about competing, but I didn't expect to be doing (competitions) when I started. ...There's something about this county that gets you out and active."Rush's first-place finish in Colorado Springs qualified her for a national weightlifting competition in Savannah, Ga., in April. Although her shoulder is injured at the moment, Rush hopes to recover in time for the event.Hughes had nothing but praise for Rush's performance.
"She was incredible," said Hughes, a USA club certified coach. "For her to complete five of six lifts and set two personal bests in her first competition was awesome."Rush was joined at the Harvest Open by Blake Kovacs, Dawn Vranaf and Jon McMillen, all of whom train locally with Hughes."I wanted to make it a great experience for everyone that went," Hughes said. "I picked the weights for everyone; the first lift on each exercise was one I was 95 percent sure they could do. The third was a personal best for them."Kovacs, a former Summit County resident, completed all six of his lifts, and recorded personal bests in the power snatch, clean and jerk and overall. "Blake had a great day," Hughes said. "He improved more than 20 percent in just over a year. His clean and jerk was 130 kilograms (286 pounds) - that's phenomenal."
Vranaf also completed all six of her lifts. She achieved personal bests in the snatch and the overall, and finished second at the event.McMillen took second place in his division, which earned him a trip to April's national collegiate competition in Reno, Nev.Hughes offered his take on the benefits of Olympic lifting by referring to a study done at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Hughes said the study found that a person needs around 500 pounds of force to bench press (a standard power lift) 300 pounds, whereas more than 5,000 pounds of force is needed to clean and jerk the same weight."Most people don't know how much better these are than power lifts," Hughes said. "All the exercises require explosiveness, agility and athleticism." Josh Salerno can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or firstname.lastname@example.org.