Watching the Men’s 77kg class in weightlifting during the “snatch” portion of the event,  I, like so many others, witnessed the horrific injury of Janos Baranyai from Hungary, when his elbow snapped backwards, dislocating, and bring the full brunt of the barbell above his head, down on top of him.

Yow! Damn! Ouch!

Being a weightlifter and having experienced those precarious moments when you’re not exactly sure what gravity has in store for you, I can feel for Janos, and know the absolute terror he must have experienced the millisecond he realized it was all about to go terribly wrong.

I’ve seen people crash weights on top of themselves before. It’s usually funny and terribly embarrassing for that person, but do it once and the fear of making an ass of yourself in public keeps you pretty honest to your limitations. Or at least it should. In theory.

Being a girl who does this sort thing, I most commonly encounter guys who are embarrassed at not lifting as much as I do, so they overstep their bounds and then suffer the further humiliation of me having to pull the weight off them.

I crashed my weight once. Once. Back when I was living on The Island and getting up at 5am everyday (I’m not a morning person), taking the 6:15am boat ashore (trying to wake up), walking to the gym by 6:35am (barely conscious now), and getting my workout in, there was that one morning where I just completely lost my focus. For no good reason either. Had the iPod on, classical music, nice and soothing, loaded up for my bench press. 160lbs for a warm-up. I could do it in my sleep. Hell, most mornings, I probably was doing it in my sleep. It certainly was the case that time.

But there I was, hands on the bar, un-racked, lowering the bar down to my chest, and then….well, nothing. I was stuck. I took my mind away from the process for a split second and there I was, stuck like a Mac Truck through a too-small an underpass. It took 4 people to lift the weight off me. And it wasn’t the fact that I had pinned myself that was so embarrassing, it was the fact that it was my warm-up weight. My warm-up weight that required 4 other people to lift. I learned my lesson. Focus on the task at hand.

I look at Baranyai in these pictures and I see the same thing. Anyone who does this knows that 9 time out of 10, when you fail the lift, it’s a mental reason over a physical. On TV, I saw him prepare his weight, get into position, perform his snatch and then lock out. But then, in a split second, you can see it on his face. When it is about to go wrong and he knows it. One millimeter too far and he lost all his mental control of the beast. There’s wasn’t anything his perfect body could for him at that point except let gravity take its course.

Luckily, he didn’t break anything. Just a dislocation that was put back in place. I hope he hasn’t suffered permanent damage, but only time will tell.

If anything, athletic perfection should be appreciated for the sheer amount of mental toughness it requires. Throwing a ball, running a lap, swimming a stroke, jumping a hurdle, diving off a board…those are the easy parts, train the body to do it often enough and muscle memory takes over.

But focus, strategy, concentration, not letting the stress get to you, controlling your doubts, fears and emotions, that’s the really hard part, the part that wins the game and gets you the medal. My hats off to all the Olympians because win or lose, it took so much for them to get there.

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