When winning isn’t enough

When Shelton Gilyard left for the National Weightlifting Championship in Manhattan in late April, he was not worried about his competitors. He entered as the defending champion and had won the title five times.

Gilyard had every other lifter in his weight class beat with his first successful lifts in the snatch and the clean-and-jerk, and he took the title. However, he was not happy with the outcome of the competition.

“I wasn’t worried about finishing first, second or third,” Gilyard said. “I was focused on what I had to do – on the weight I wanted to lift. I didn’t get that done, and I’m disappointed.”

Gilyard’s win was indeed bittersweet. His plan was to lift a combined 225 kilograms, about 495 pounds, in both categories, which would have increased his chances to earn an invitation to the world team. His total of 215 kilograms (473 pounds) only gave him a hollow victory.

“I missed my first lift in the snatch because my body wasn’t warmed up,” Gilyard said. “My second attempt at 92.5 kilograms (204 pounds) was real easy. The weights felt light.”

He then lifted 97.5 kilograms (215 pounds) with no problems. Unfortunately for Gilyard, weightlifters are only allowed three tries in both the snatch and the clean-and-jerk for a total of six lifts. The miss at 92.5 kilograms cost him a chance to do his third attempt at his target weight of 105 kilograms (231 pounds).

In the snatch, the weightlifter tries to lift the bar from the floor over his head in one motion. In the clean-and-jerk, the lifter brings the weight to his chest, rests it there and then lifts it over his head. This is the easier of the two, evidenced by the much higher weights that are achieved in this category.

“In the clean-and-jerk, I opened at 117.5 kilograms (259 pounds),” Gilyard said. “No problem. It was real easy. My body was warmed up, and I just did it.”

However, on his two attempts at 122.5 kilograms (270 pounds), Gilyard failed to gain control of the weight once it was over his head.

“On the first attempt, I left the weight out in front of me,” Gilyard said. “And on the last one, it got behind me. You have to have clear control for three seconds for the judges to accept the lift.

“I’m disappointed. I felt that I had the dedication, I had the technique and I had spent the hours in the gym.”After the competition, Gilyard took a week or so off to let his body recover.

“After a competition you back off the weights for a while, and then you work yourself back up,” Gilyard said. “You cycle between competitions so that you peak at the right times.”

Gilyard trains six times a week.

“I work out Monday through Saturday,” Gilyard said. “In the beginning of the week, I work on different parts of my lifts. I break them down. Then, on Friday or so, I bring it all together.”

He is currently between trainers but works with a friend of his.Gilyard’s next competition will be the U.S. Open in Savannah, Ga., in December. His real goal, however, is the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

“After I graduate, I want to go out to Colorado Springs and just work. Get away from it all,” Gilyard said.

Life is keeping him busy with school, an internship, a job and his training. He will graduate with a master’s degree in social work in the fall of 2003. Colorado Springs is the home of the Olympic Training Center, and Gilyard hopes to work with the staff there.

“I really need to have the time to just focus on lifting,” Gilyard said. “Weightlifting is 75 to 80 percent technique, and only the rest is power. The trials for Athens will be around April of 2004. I want to work out there until that time and fix mistakes I’ve been making, listen to coaches and just concentrate on weightlifting.”

At the moment, Gilyard’s workout environment is less than ideal. He trains at the university’s rec center and in Bradenton.

“At USF, I can’t go real heavy for safety reasons,” Gilyard said. “I don’t have enough space or rubberized weights.”

The drive to Bradenton takes a substantial chunk of time out of Gilyard’s days, but he hopes for an improvement in the future.

“There is a facility being planned near the Ice Palace,” Gilyard said. “That’s really close to my office.”

Despite the setback in Manhattan, Gilyard is still confident about his weightlifting ability. “From the very beginning, my body responded really well to the sport. I got stronger so quickly,” he said.

At the Collegiate Championship in 2000, he won the gold medal in his weight class and the award given to the best lifter.

The American records for his weight class of 56 kilograms (123 pounds) are 110 kilograms (242 pounds) in the snatch and 137.5 kilograms (303 pounds) in the clean-and-jerk, marks that Gilyard feels are attainable.

“I feel that those are within my reach. Absolutely.”

Until he gets to the point of setting American records, Gilyard will have to finish school and continue to work hard. Only then will he walk away from a national championship with satisfaction. Not having to worry about his competitors just isn’t enough anymore.