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An Olympic-sized lift
Davis, Brower get ready for Olympic trials next month
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Henry Brower of Faulkville strains while attempting a snatch during preparations for the U.S. Olympic Trials, set for next month in Atlanta. Brower is ranked sixth among U.S. weightlifters in all weight classes. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

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Sarah Davis trains for the U.S. Olympic trials.

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The heavy lifting isn’t over for two Effingham County residents in their quest for the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Sarah Davis and Henry Brower will be taking part in the U.S. Olympic weightlifting trials next month in Atlanta for the very few spots on the team headed to China this summer.

“I’m excited about this,” said Brower, a South Effingham High grad and Faulkville resident. “It means a lot. It’s what you’ve been training for for the last four years to get to this moment.”

Said Davis: “I’m excited because it’s an honor to compete at the Olympic trials.”

Brower has been lifting for 12 years and took part in the 2004 Olympic trials. He competes in the 69 kilo class, about 151 pounds. He’s ranked sixth overall in the U.S. among all weight classes, and those around him in ranking are all very close in terms of percentage.

“It should be a good battle to see who goes to Beijing,” he said.

There are only six spots — four for the women and two for the men — up for grabs among all the weight classes. For Brower, closing that gap will be difficult but not impossible. Davis, ranked 15th now among all weight class, admits she faces longer odds.

“Because we only have four women’s slots, my chances are slim,” she said. “I’m ranked 15th right now. For me to improve that much, no way. I just want to do the very best I can.”

Davis and Brower are competing against lifters in all weight classes for the spots.

There are 30 men and 30 women competing at the trials. There are four spots on the U.S. women’s team and two on the men’s team. Since they compete against all weight classes, the lifters are going for a percentage of the average lifts done by the top five placers at the world championships.

Davis has been a weightlifter for eight years, and she played softball and basketball in high school. But there was something about weightlifting and the fact she had to rely only on herself that appealed to her.

“It’s just you,” she said. “I had never participated in an individual sport.”

She competes in the 58 kilogram class, one of seven weight classes. Only two lifts — the snatch and the clean and jerk — are used in Olympic competition. Davis has been working on her technique for the snatch.

“I’m strong,” she said, “but I’ve been struggling on my technique.”

Davis trains four days a week, two and a half hours each day. She spends two days a week working on the snatch technique and the other two on the clean and jerk. There’s also work on pulling exercises and on squats.

But it’s more than just brute strength when it comes to lifting, Davis and Brower said.

“The thing about weightlifting, it’s a very technical sport,” Davis said. “We spend a lot of time improving our technique.”

Said Brower: “Technique is very important. It’s one of the main things we work on every day. Everything’s got to be firing.”

The lifters also have to manage their body weight over the next couple of weeks before the Olympic trials. Davis said she will go a little over weight and start cutting back gradually before the trials.

Davis is working on a master’s degree in sports medicine at Armstrong Atlantic State University. Her thesis is on weightlifting and testing kids for their potential in the activity.

She’s had to overcome some misconceptions about weightlifters, especially female weightlifters. At 58 kilos, she’s less than 130 pounds.

“Look at me. I’m not overweight,” she said. “We have women who are at 105 pounds.”

Brower is also a master’s student at Armstrong, completing an advanced degree in nursing. He earned a bachelor’s in biology but decided that’s not what he wanted to do.

He also played team sports in high school and a coach said he ought to try weightlifting because it would help him.

Brower’s strong suit is the clean and jerk.

Both Brower and Davis are coached by Henry Meyers, and their training goes on 52 weeks a year. There are few, if any, off days.

“We’re a year-round sport,” Davis said. “If we stop training, we’ll never get back to that level.”

“We don’t have an offseason,” Brower said.

Like Davis, Brower has to convince people he’s a competitive weightlifter.

“They’re totally surprised,” he said. “I tell them I’ve won so many national championships. They’re always asking, ‘Can you pick me up?’”

But lifting a live, often moving person is a lot different from the lifting Brower does on a daily basis, so he passes on the invitation.

There’s also a mental part to the sport in getting yourself to prepare to lift and believing you can do what’s in front of you.

“You can psyche yourself out,” Davis said. “How else can you lift weights you’ve never tried before? You have to be mentally strong in this sport.”

Weightlifting has taken Davis and Brower across the country and all around the world. They are planning to go to Colorado Springs, Colo., in September for the World University Games qualifier. Those games will be held in Athens, Greece, this fall.

Last year, weightlifting took Davis to Peru and Turkey. Brower went to Cuba, becoming the first U.S. weightlifter to compete in the Communist country since 1996, and he’s also been to Thailand.

“I try to have fun,” Davis said. “If I’m not having fun, why am I doing it.”