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Christchurch, New Zealand                                                December 2001


BENCH:    281lbs.





30 hours, how long it took to get to Christchurch, New Zealand.

30 minutes, how long it took for the 132lb weight class to compete.

30 seconds, how long it took for Jennifer to complete her final bench press at the World Bench Press Championships.

30 hours for only a 30-second lift may seem like a long way to go, but when you are trying to win a World Championship, nothing can be too much and nowhere can be too far . That has been the attitude that has kept Jen training so hard over the last year. Even a broken ankle and 12 weeks in a cast could not stop the quest for the gold or even cause one day of missed training. It started immediately after the medal ceremony at last year's World Championships. After taking 3rd in 1999, and 2nd last year she stepped off the podium and said, "I never want to stand up there again and listen to some other countries National Anthem."

This year's Bench Press World Championships were held in Christchurch, New Zealand. It took 30 hours to get there from North Carolina. We arrived about 6 days early to let Jen acclimate to the travel and the 18 time zone change. It was strange, we left on Saturday morning and arrived Monday afternoon, due to crossing the International Date Line, that makes it tomorrow in New Zealand. Jen started out the trip by spending a day teaching at a New Zealand school, little did she know that this would mean interviews by local television and radio shows. The people of New Zealand were some of the nicest in the World, and took an immediate interest in the World Championships and especially the U.S. Team. There was news coverage everyday, which included TV, radio and newspapers. After the bulk of the U.S. team arrived there were a few days to lunge around, mentally prepare for the competition and lose those last few pounds. Most of the days were spent visiting the wonderful shops, site seeing in the beautiful countryside, and renewing the great friendships we have made over the last few years with the U.S. teammates.

Jen made weight fairly easy, and was able to eat right up to the day of the meet. She only spent about an hour in the sauna to lose the last pound or two to get down to 132 pounds. Originally there were 13 people in the 132lb class but after weigh-in only 6 had chosen to stay at 132. Many either chose to go up to 148lbs or drop to 124lbs to avoid the tough competition at 132. The 132lb class traditionally is one of the toughest, and this year was no exception, the former 124lb world record holder from Japan had move up to 132 and Jen, world record holder herself, was still there. It was obvious that this was going to be a great battle.

Warm-ups went well, and you could start to feel the tension growing as the 132-pound class was on deck. This year was different though, you could tell that Jen had a different confidence this year. A subtle assurance that she was here for only one reason, was very evident. She helped others warm-up and even took some time to talk to teammate, and fellow 132lb competitor Jill Darling, who was sick and worried about how well she could compete.

Jen and the Japanese girl both made easy opening attempts at 255lbs. and with the rest of the field already 20 pounds behind it was obvious that this would be the competition for the gold. One problem still existed however, the girl from Japan was lighter bodyweight. In powerlifting, if you tie another competitor, whoever is the lighter bodyweight wins. This meant Jen was going to have to lift at least 5 pounds more then her because the smallest competition jump you can make is 5 pounds. Because of this, Jen decided to be conservative and I'm sure the 18 time zones had taken its toll (although I don't know if you would get her to admit it, at least not during the meet). Jen chose 271 for her second attempt, as did the girl from Japan, they both made the lift and it was going to come down to the final attempt.

With the Japanese girl in the lead, based on bodyweight, strategy was going to be very important. The U.S. coach put in 275lbs for Jen's final attempt and the Japanese girl followed suit. It was easy to see that she was going to attempt whatever Jen chose and be satisfied with winning on lighter bodyweight. Now the decision had to be made, how high did Jen have to go so that the Japanese girl would miss. After watching her second lift, at 271lb, I figured the Japanese girl had another 5 pounds but couldn't handle a 10-pound jump. The decision was made to up Jen's final attempt to 281lbs, which would tie the existing World Record (held by the Russian girl that beat Jen last year, who coincidentally was busted for steroid abuse). With the pressure mounting the camera crews moved in to see this battle unfold. The Japanese girl struggled with her attempt, she got the weight to the top, but it was all over the place and was denied by every judge. Jen with the pressure on, the World Record on the bar, and the cameras rolling, coolly went out, laid down on the bench, and made the World Record look like a toy. Following what I think was an attempt at the vertical leap record just after her successful attempt, the new World Champion, then calmly gave an interview to a New Zealand television news crew. To understand how competitive the 132lb class is and just how well Jen lifted, her final lift would have placed her second in the 148lb weight class, and would have won the 165lb weight class.

Then came the moment that Jen has been training for since she started powerlifting 2 years ago. On top of the podium, gold medal around her neck, American flag in the background, listening to the Star Spangled Banner. She had just become the first American female to ever win a World Bench Press Championship. It was all she could do to hold back the tears. To be honest, in light of the September 11 tragedies and the fact that she won on Pearl Harbor Day, remembering Jen standing proud with her hand on her heart and the National Anthem playing, well if this had been written with paper and pen, you would probably notice a few wet spots and some ink blotches of my own while reading this.

Again, what a great experience and enjoyable time we had in New Zealand. The New World Champion would like to thank her sponsors SportPharma and Inzer who helped make this all possible. Thanks for all the support and friendship from the U.S. Team and coaches. Also, a special thanks for all of the support from friends and family, you can't possible know how much it means.

Well, it took 2 years from the start of Jen's powerlifting career to win the World Championships, do the math that's 30 months. Coincidence, I think not.

Special Thanks to Richard Weed and Carol Latta Chromosome Donors

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