Christopher Camenares is a 20-year-old sophomore at Stony Brook University and he just took home second place for his total, second place in his snatch and third place for his clean and jerk. Now I know this all just sounds like some sort of really raunchy contest but get your mind out of the gutter—this is Olympic lifting and Camenares earned those medals at the 2013 National Weightlifting Championships. I was able to get him to answer a few questions about how he balances being a National-level lifter and an economics and math double major.
Q:Explain Olympic lifting like I have no idea what the sport is?
A: Olympic weightlifting is a speed and strength-related sport that tests the maximum amount an athlete can lift overhead in two different manners: The Clean and Jerk, and The Snatch. Each lifter is divided into separate weight classes, and is given three attempts in each discipline (Clean and Jerk; and Snatch) to perform their maximal weight.
The Clean and Jerk is a two part lift. The athlete starts with a barbell on the ground, and must pull it up to their clavicle/shoulders in a very powerful, swift motion. Usually a lifter will also squat down low to receive the barbell on their clavicle. After standing up with the weight in the “rack” position, the athlete composes him/herself. Then, in a very sudden dip and drive, the athlete launches the barbell over their head into a lock-out position. Once the barbell is controlled in this lock out, the lift is completed.
In the Snatch, the athlete starts with the barbell on the ground. However, this time, their initial pull must be greater than to just their clavicle; they must sweep it up into a fully locked out overhead position in one continuous motion. Again, the technique of squatting down is employed, however the bar must be locked out overhead.
Q: How’d you get started?
A: I always liked training, and bettering myself. In High School, I naturally progressed through the sports I did, I found myself in the weight room often. I was in love with the concept of putting in hard work, and then reaping the benefits. It was exhilarating to walk into the weight room and lift a weight I previously could not. As my experience developed, I really wanted to pursue Olympic weightlifting. While I would perform the movements by myself, to really get into it, one needs proper equipment and a coach. I continued with my lifting as a hobby; although I did enter two powerlifting competitions. Eventually, by luck, I found a nearby facility(Garden City) that teaches Olympic weightlifting. Since finding that facility and coaches, I have been hooked. I dropped all extraneous training, and devoted myself fully to Olympic weightlifting, and have never looked back.
Q: Is it hard to balance schoolwork and training/competition? How do you manage to do it?
A: Weightlifting Competitions are not extremely frequent, so they do not disrupt Academics. A few weeks ago, I went to Tennessee for the University Nationals, but that event, at its large scale, only required missing one day of class.
My actual training and school work is usually not a problem. With well managed time, I can fit all things in together neatly. I’m taking 21 credits this semester, but can still train six times a week. I think it all just comes to time management, and not wasting time in things that won’t have a long-term benefit.
However, training and the rest of my life are not mutually exclusive. I invest a great deal of effort to perform at a high level, and it requires that I have a certain diet, I get proper rest, and I make sure I employ necessary recovery techniques. Training affects my social life more than my academic. I have to watch what I eat, get to bed early, etc. This isn’t a complaint, but just a fact.
Q: What are your long term goals? Would you like to compete professionally?
A:My long term goals are to procure additional medals at national meets, obtain the national Record for the University Level, and, most importantly, to make myself the best I can be. The medals and records are nice, but they are honestly a bonus to the pure joy I get out of lifting heavier and heavier weights. Unfortunately, weightlifting is a niche sport, and competing professionally (being paid to train) is lackluster. I can manage training without getting paid a meager sum for it. That does not mean I will give any less effort though.
Q: Can you give any tips on how to get started for someone who is interested in weightlifting?
A: If someone is interested in learning weightlifting…they should contact me! I have no problems helping people out with the lifts when I’m free, and have even begun holding seminars at CrossFits and Campus Rec. But if someone is interested in getting started on their own, they should look up (google is fine) beginner programs for weightlifting, and monitor their form and technique very meticulously. Make no mistake, this is first and foremost a strength-sport, but neglected technique is also a grievous error. If they can find a coach, they would be superb. Otherwise, they should just dive right in!
Q: Where do you train? And how often do you train?
A: I train in a variety of places. My coaches are at the Professional Performance Center in Garden City, Nassau. However, I have also obtained my own equipment, and sometimes train out of my Dad’s shop, in Holbrook. Lastly, I will also stop by the Campus Recreation Center to do some training.
I train approximately five to six times a week, usually for two hours a day.
Q:What’s your opinion of Crossfit? Do you like the attention it has brought the Olympic lifts?
A: CrossFit is a great conditioning and basic strength building workout. There is nothing inherently wrong with performing many barbell related movements in quick succession. However, CrossFit does tend to neglect proper form and technique, and this produces injuries. Nonetheless, I think the attention is has brought to the Olympic Lifts is very positive. It surely brings a smile to my face when people actually know what I’m doing instead of asking: “What’s that weird shoulder thing you’re doing?”