Johannesburg - Joburg weightlifter Laryne Jefferies recently received the good news that the three records she took in the Gauteng Champs and Arnold Classic 2022 have been acknowledged by the SA Weightlifting Association as new South African records.
Thirty-year-old Jefferies came to weightlifting from Crossfit only two years ago, and has been exclusively focusing on this power sport since 2020.
Currently lifting in the 71kg weight class, she weighed in at 68kg and medalled with 85kg in the snatch and 107kg in the clean and jerk, for a record total weight of 192kg.
Weightlifting often flies under the radar in South Africa, but this historic sport, which is driven by equal parts technique and brute strength, has been described as an embodiment of the depths of human strength and courage.
Weightlifters defy natural law as they exert themselves to lift unthinkable weights above their heads – sometimes as much as twice or even three times their own body weight.
The sport is thought to have originated in Africa, Greece and South Asia, and during the 19th century it evolved into the modern version that is practised today.
It was included as one of the track and field events in the Olympic Games in 1896, but it was a male-only event until 2000 when women’s weightlifting was included on the ticket at the Sydney Olympics.
There are currently five Olympic weight classes each for men and women.
Olympic lifting is performed using a steel barbell with rubber-covered steel weights that are added to the sides.
Each weight class compete in two events, the snatch, and the clean and jerk.
In the former, the lifter picks up the barbell and is required to lift it above the head in a single fluid movement.
In the latter, the barbell is first picked up to the chest, and after a pause the lifter stands and pushes the barbell above the head with extended elbows, and holds it in position until the judges give the sign.
Jefferies’s coach, Matthew Hurn from Movement Crew Fitness, explains that in order to win a competition, an athlete has to achieve the highest combined weight in the two events.
“You get three attempts for each event, and the best score is used to calculate the total score and the final ranking based on the total weight lifted by the athlete.
“Laryne has developed her natural strength with an extremely dedicated daily training routine, which is unusual for a non-professional athlete,” says Hurn.
“We work hard at perfecting technique, but it takes a lot of discipline to put in the hours.”
Jefferies, a fashion designer by profession, arises at 5am six days a week to put in two hours of training before she starts her day job creating bespoke bridal gowns for clients across Africa.
“If you told me 10 years ago that I would be getting up in the dark to train every morning, I would have called you crazy,” laughs Jefferies, who never participated in any sport growing up.
“When I started Crossfit in my mid-twenties I discovered that I was naturally really strong, and that advantage lead me quite organically to do well in weightlifting.
“I am a total convert now – I love how you see small gains adding up as a result of those hours with my barbell.”
Her next goal is the SA Championships taking place later this year, and in the long term she has her eye on the global stage.
“I would really love to test myself against the world’s best one day at the World Championships,” she says.
For now, her daily training regimen aims to steadily increase her scores, and, notes Hurn, her latest score is already high enough to make her eligible for potential team selection for the Commonwealth Games, which takes place in 2023.