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At 61, Mercer Island weightlifter heads to World Master’s competition
There isn’t much stereotypical about Pat Hackett. At 60 years old she took on a new sport, and not a common one at that: competitive Olympic weightlifting, competing in the master’s division.
A year after she started the sport, with a top finish at the U.S. National Master’s weight lifting competition in New York City under her belt, Hackett is preparing for a trip to the World Master’s competition in Poland in September.
The first question, Hackett said, that people always ask is how she got into the sport, since she certainly doesn’t look the part, dressed prior to a workout in clothes appropriate for her job as an art rep.
“That’s the first thing people always want to know,” she said, laughing. “I was working out with my trainer and I would see another woman in the club, Trish Zuccotti, doing this exercise, and it looked so cool and I said to my trainer, ‘Can you teach me what she’s doing?’ So he started to teach me the clean and jerk [one of the two types of Olympic weightlifting]. I just was really enjoying it and Joe [her trainer] said this is a little out of my league. Joe asked Scott [Hughes, her coach] to come and give me a few tips, and I just went crazy for the sport. Pretty soon I’m hiring Scott. That was a year ago in January.”
The Mercer Island resident said she spends about two hours in the gym, three days a week, working with Hughes, who has been coaching at this level for the past seven to eight years.
“Basically, she’s training as an athlete to do her best in her chosen sport, which is Olympic weightlifting,” the coach said.
Naturally, the second question people have, Hackett said, is how much she lifts. In competitions, weights are measured in kilos rather than pounds. Each lifter gets three attempts at each lift and the highest weight counts.
“In nationals I got 32 kilos in snatch and 47 in the clean and jerk, so 79 total,” said Hackett. That’s roughly 70.5 pounds and 103.6 pounds for a total of 174 pounds lifted.
Strategy plays a big part in competitions, said Hughes, so even though Hackett has lifted more than her national totals in practice, they start lower to ensure she doesn’t find herself in a bad place at competition.
“Strategy is important because in your opener, if you miss it, you can only do the same weight or go up; you can’t go down,” said Hughes. “So if you open too high and miss it, you’re behind the eight ball.”
Hackett, who readily admits she’s not the typical weightlifter, said since the first day she tried the sport, she fell in love. Being able to see that love for the sport fill a room at National’s was what made the experience special.
“What I found amazing was that everybody in the room, and there were about 300 people, just love this sport. To be in a place where everybody loves the same thing. They are all so supportive, and they want you to make it,” she said. “It’s not a vicious atmosphere at all. It’s a very supportive atmosphere.”
The World Master’s event is mid-September in Ciechanow, Poland, located north of Warsaw in the northeastern portion of the country.
“I really want to see the other lifters,” said Hackett. “It’s so fun to watch them and to meet the people who are in my age group. I think that’s always interesting; it was at nationals. The different cultures — you know there will be a million languages and the coaches will be screaming in different languages. I just think it’ll be a terrific experience. To wear the USA [uniform] has just got to be an amazing feeling.”
While the United States is typically a strong competitor in the Master’s events, said Hughes, it all depends on who shows up.
“You never know who is going to show up,” Hughes said of the World’s meet. “There could be some outrageously amazing lifters and there could be just mediocre lifters. You just don’t know.”
While Hackett said she doesn’t have a specific weight goal in mind for World’s, she trusts that Hughes will have the plan together to allow her to do her best.
“The goal is to do the best you can on the day,” said her coach. “I go in with projected lifts, but like I said, anything can happen on the day. One of the keys to being a good competitor is being able to put it all together on the day.”
Between now and when she makes her first attempt, Hughes said he has her training broken into cycles, which should allow her to reach her top performance on Sept. 18, the first day of competition.
“It’s all designed to enable her to hit her peak performance on Sept. 18 when she competes,” he said.
While the pair can practice and prepare all they want, Hackett said a huge piece of what she has to deal with while competing is the mental side of things.
“I try to focus on staying calm and on just paying attention to the power in the lift. Scott’s voice is all I hear. My last three competitions have been better in that respect. It’s so mental, you have to be completely sure when you grab that bar that it’s going to go up or it just doesn’t,” said Hackett. “Besides all the myriad of parts that go into doing a lift, if at any point you think it’s not going to work, then it won’t. That’s the most fascinating part of all this, is your brain.”
Even though nerves will be something she has to deal with in Poland, Hackett said it helps her knowing that she will be nervous so she can use it.
One thing Hackett reflects on, now that she has found her own love of the sport, is understanding why others go so crazy over it.
“This would probably be the last thing I’d ever predict I’d have a passion for,” she said. “I’m not the right body type; it’s not anything I ever knew about until I saw Trish doing it. It just feels so good, and now I understand why people ski 150 days a year. When I walk into the door of the gym, everything is good.”
No matter what lies ahead at the World Master’s competition, Hackett said there is a mark she would like to achieve.
“There’s a woman who currently holds the world records at 45 [snatch] and 55 [clean and jerk] kilos,” said Hackett. “I think in clean and jerk I can get there relatively soon; snatch, I don’t know. I just keep working toward that because those are marks that are there that I can see.”
Her coach has full confidence that she’ll be able to continue advancing long into the sport.
“It’s an evolving process,” he said. “She’s just been doing this for a little over a year, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. Like any athlete, your goal is to get better over time, so she has not even come close to what her actual maximums are. It just takes time.”
Hackett trains at Club Zum in downtown Seattle.