Janet Chow was an endurance athlete. She would regularly spend hours swimming, biking or running to cross the finish lines of marathons and triathlons.
Somehow, the 4-foot-10, 42-year-old found herself in a North Naples Crossfit gym, lifting roughly 115 pounds over her head, training for a national weightlifting competition.
“It’s a huge shift from endurance to lifting,” Chow said. “I dabble in swim, bike and run a little bit now, but not as much as I used to. This has pretty much become my life.”
Chow, along with Estero resident Janine Giovinazzi, will compete at the National Masters Weightlifting Championship in Buffalo, New York this weekend.
“[Weightlifting] is kind of like a triathlon,” Chow said. “It’s the finish line is what gets you to push. That’s the drug, crossing the finish line. With lifting, it’s similar. The finish line is meet day where you’re judged and there’s the adrenaline rush of lifting and getting your total. It’s the competition against yourself and getting that personal best that I liked.”
Weightlifting — different from powerlifting, bodybuilding, or general weight training — consists of two events: the snatch (lifting a barbell from the ground to overhead in one continuous motion) and the clean-and-jerk (two motions of lifting a barbell to the deltoids, then lifting it overhead). Athletes are scored based on the technique and weight (in kilograms) of the best of three attempted lifts.
The Masters Weightlifting Championship is open to athletes 35 and older with some athletes competing into their late 80s. The competition is broken down into weight and age classes, so Chow and Giovinazzi, 54, won’t be competing against each other.
After moving to Naples from the Washington D.C. area three years ago, Chow got into the sport after joining a Crossfit gym as a way of meeting people. Giovinazzi picked up her first barbell under similar circumstances a little less than a decade ago.
“That’s where I met most people and made a lot of my friends when I moved down here,” Giovinazzi said. “It made me stronger, both physically and mentally. It’s also fun.”
She’ll compete in her first national competition this weekend.
While they’re still new to the national stage, both expect to fly back to Southwest Florida with a medal. Because of her size, Chow won’t face many in her class. So a conservative, quality opening lift will most likely do the job.
Giovinazzi hopes to reach a new personal record of a combined 100 kilos lifted between the two events.
“It’s a bit cliche, but I just want to do my best,” Giovinazzi said. “I’m just going to focus on my lift. I want to push myself and maybe get a PR total.”
Giovinazzi’s stage this summer will be significantly larger than this weekend. She already qualified for the Masters World Championship and will be making the trip to Barcelona, Spain in August.
Chow also qualified, but instead will hold out until 2019 for a much shorter trip abroad to Quebec, Canada. She hopes to use the extra year to build weight and experience.
Instead of Barcelona, Chow will participate in the Masters Camp — held at the USA Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado — in August. Giovinazzi participated in the camp last summer.
Until then, Chow continues to focus on one lift at a time. Reminders hang around her house and a quote from Nelson Mandela is written behind her gym’s squat rack.
“Everything seems impossible until it’s done.”
Even a triathlete-turned weightlifter.