The Big Lift This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   I thought I'd never eat again. My mom told me what I was doing wasunhealthy, but I had to make weight. I'm a power lifter and, in lessthan 48 hours, I would be in Scranton, Pennsylvania at abench-pressing competition. After dropping six pounds in two days, Imade weight by a pound. With the 9:30 a.m. weigh-ins complete,competition started at 11 a.m.

After eating a bagel, cupcake, two powerbars (some very strong stuff)and a carbohydrate drink (16 ounces and 440 calories) I feltreplenished, to say the least.

Finally, we all went to hear the rules. My lifting straps were notacceptable. Luckily, I found a nice man who wasn't in my flight wholet me borrow his (a flight is a grouping by weight; my flight was114 to 174 pounds.) Now only 15 minutes remained until competitionbegan.

They announced the order of my flight. Although not too many peoplewere in my age division, many were in my flight. I was the fifth tolast person, since it went in order of opening lifts. My opening liftwas 205 pounds, which was my decision. My trainer's original plan wasto make my first lift pretty light, so I would get it without aproblem. That way, I would win the division with my first lift. Thenmy second lift would be a build-up at about 265 pounds and my thirdlift would be a record-breaking attempt between 285-300 pounds,depending on how I felt. You are allowed three lifts, so I wanted touse them wisely.

But nothing went as planned. I heard the female announcer say,"Neil Mayer, on deck." Boom - my mind shot into overdrive.I wrapped my wrists, tucked in my shirt, and chalked up quickly. Iwalked to the bar with my spotter (who helps you pick up the bar offthe hooks). I picked it up with no problem and brought it down. Asfar as I knew, I was doing fine until I heard one of the three judgesyell, "No lift! Take the bar." Before I knew it, thespotters on each side of me took the bar and put it on the rack. Whatjust happened? I thought. This can't be right. Then again, I wasn'tabout to argue.

From the disturbed look on my face, one judge could tell I had noclue what happened, so he told me I'd brought the bar down too fast,causing it to bounce off my chest. That minute bounce made my liftillegal, because the bar has to be brought down under control and siton your chest until a press signal is given. Then the bar must beheld at the top until a rack signal is given (when they place the barback on its hooks). Since I bounced the bar, I technically began topress the bar up before the signal was given.

I understood, but was angry. I felt better when they told me I wasnot disqualified. My mindset was back and I was ready and determined.The weight wasn't too heavy, I just hadn't known the full extent ofthe rules. I had ten minutes before my next lift, which I decidedwould be at 205 pounds because I wanted to secure the win, eventhough it meant I wouldn't have a chance to break the tournamentrecord.

The atmosphere of the gym was strange. There were many large men withcrossed arms, standing quietly in full concentration. There were afew guys with trainers talking in corners and one man came up to giveme advice. When I heard my name again, I chalked up and walkedbriskly over to the bar. I blocked out every voice, noise anddistraction. All I saw was the bar and the image of it going up anddown. I sat down, extremely determined, picked up the bar and broughtit down slowly. I held it, pressed it back up and racked it."Lift is good," I heard.

I was very relieved. I was now in first place with the second-placecompetitor far behind. I had one minute to report my next weight,which I decided would be 225 pounds. I got a drink and, before I knewit, was chalking up for the third and final time.

I went through the routine, tightening my straps, tucking in theshirt, chalking the hands and walking over to the bar. I sat down andbanged out a perfect lift. As soon as I saw three white lights andheard the announcer's voice say, "Lift is good," I knew Ihad clinched first place. It was like the last day of final examswhen the ultimate stress is lifted in one split second.

Now I could breathe again. I relaxed, got a drink and a slice ofpizza; my heart was beating normally again. Although I hadn't heardthe official results, I knew the numbers. I came back to watch thesecond and third flight go (300 pounds and over) up to the superheavyweight class (guys bench-pressing 600 pounds).

After all the competitors went, they held the awards ceremony. Theannouncer went through the awards, class by class. When they finallygot to my grouping, I heard, "First place in the 14 to16-year-olds 148-pound class, Neil Mayer." I stood up with a bigsmile on my face and had pictures taken for local newspapers, musclemagazines and, of course, my mom. The day was finally over. Now therewas only the two-hour long drive home, a few days to rest and thentraining for the next show.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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