SYDNEY - Half of the United States' women's weightlifting team took the day off from training Sunday. But their hands were far from idle.
They kept them busy clapping for Tara Nott.
One of two U.S. lifters competing in the women's 48kg class, the Colorado Springs, Colo. resident won America's first weightlifting medal in 16 years, earning a silver in the first women's weightlifting session in Olympic history. Nott tied her own American records with a snatch of 82.5kg, a 102.5kg clean and jerk for a 185kg total.
"We're real, real excited," said Team Savannah founder Michael Cohen, who is coaching the women's Olympic team in Sydney. "We said coming down here that we had four girls and we thought all four would have a chance to medal. Now maybe people will start to see that we meant it."
Robin Goad, America's other entry in the weight class, finished sixth, 5kg out of a tie for third place.
The other U.S. women lifters, Cheryl Haworth and Cara Heads-Lane traveled to the Sydney Convention Centre in Darling Harbour and watched the session from the stands. One news agency asked permission to wire Haworth for sound during the competition, but Cohen refused.
"This," he said, "was Tara's day."
And it was not a bad day to have.
After missing her third and final attempt at the clean and jerk, Nott had to wait out the remainder of the competition to find out whether she would win a bronze or a silver, which she took on body weight after tying with Sri Indriyani, of India.
"I was pretty sure I had a medal," she said. "But I was a nervous wreck.
"This is the greatest feeling in the word to have this medal around my neck. I'm going to keep it on until I get back to my room at the Athletes' village and I can lock it up."
Nott's performance was popular with the 13 family members who traveled to Sydney to watch her compete.
And it was helpful to the entire U.S. weightlifting team, which was under pressure from its governing body to return from Sydney with at least one medal. Failing to do so could have cost the program funding from the USOC.
Achieving that goal so early in the Games could also affect the other U.S. lifters.
"This takes a lot of pressure off USA Weightlifting, and it also takes a lot of pressure off Cheryl," Cohen said of the 17-year-old 75kg-plus lifter, who had been considered America's best hope for a medal. "We got the one we had to get, now we can take chances. And that's what we're going to do. It won't be in the back of our minds that the USAW needs a medal. We can just go out and give it our best shot for our other lifters to have their best day."
Sunday turned out to be one of the best days of Cohen's long weightlifting life.
The Savannah, Ga. native qualified for the Olympics in 1980, but the United States boycotted the Moscow Games in protest of the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan. He was injured the next two Olympiads. So, Sunday was the first time he was involved with a competition at the Games, and he contributed to a medal.
"This is every coach's dream," said Cohen. "A lot of coaches go their whole career and don't have a medal and first time out, boom, we get one."
He and the U.S. will get two more chances for medals in Sydney when Heads-Lane lifts Sept. 20 and Haworth competes Sept. 22.
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