SYDNEY - For three years, ever since she moved across the country for a chance to go around the world, Cara Heads-Lane has envisioned the moment she will walk into today.
Her nervous husband in the stands. Her parents and sister next to him. Other American weightlifters among the cheering crowd at the Sydney Convention Centre and Michael Cohen shouting instructions from the side of the stage as she approaches the bar for her last lift, which naturally, she throws overhead and holds there.
She has pictured the scene over and over, consciously and not, while awake and in dreams since she set the 2000 Summer Olympics as a goal. She just won't see it today when it arrives.
Heads-Lane will be in her own world when she competes against the rest of the world today in the women's 48-kilo class in the Sydney Games. Her session is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Australia, which will be 11:30 tonight in Savannah.
I block out everything until after I lift, said Heads-Lane. If there's a judge in front of me, I might see that he's there, but I wouldn't be able to tell you what he looks like. I may be looking at something, but I'm actually just rehearsing in my mind what I want to do: come off the floor quick with strength and speed.
It's just becomes a blanket of people.
And today becomes another swatch in Team Savannah's quilt of emotions.
Heads-Lane has admitted having a recurring dream about this day for nearly six months. And the young, local club has been rapidly moving toward it as well. In just 12 years, Cohen has turned his program from a non-sanctioned extracurricular group at Jenkins High School with four athletes into the burgeoning hub of American weightlifting with three Olympians to its credit and several others who could reach future Games.
Cohen will be there today, as coach of the U.S. women's team and proud father of a program that has produced half of the American weightlifting contingent in Sydney.
We're ready for this, said Cohen, whose four-member team has already won America's first weightlifting medal in 16 years at these Games. Cara looks good, she is in very good shape and she's had some big training sessions lately. I think she's ready to bust some American records and place high.
It will likely take a personal-best performance for Heads-Lane to achieve her personal goals.
The women's 48k is perhaps the most competitive class in the Sydney Games, with as many as eight strong medal contenders. Although China, which has traditionally dominated women's weightlifting, did not enter an athlete in the session, it will still be a deep field
But both Cohen and Heads-Lane say her training has been aimed toward peaking today and has progressed on that path since arriving in Australia. During the three weeks she has been here preparing, she has matched her personal records with a snatch of 102.5kg and a clean and jerk of 125. In today's competition, Heads-Lane expects her first snatch attempt to be at her American record (102.5) and to open the clean and jerk competition with whatever weight she and Cohen feel necessary to remain in medal contention.
My goal is to win a medal, said Heads-Lane, who grew up in Santa Monica, Calif. and moved to Savannah after drawing Cohen's attention with three bronze medals at the 1997 Junior World Championships. I've waited a long time for this competition and I think I'm as ready as I can be to put my best performance forward.
She has already put many of the Olympic experiences she was looking forward to out of her mind.
While she has been embracing Sydney and the surroundings, sharing time with international athletes and trying to see some of the city, she is suddenly in a new mindset today, switching from celebrating the Olympics to concentrating on them.
I've kind of gone into competition mode the last day or so, she says. I'm really excited, but in a different way. Now I'm really focusing all on performing and technique. All the external stuff is gone for a while.
I just want to put myself in the state of mind to be ready to give my best performance and finish with a medal.
If she does, it will be something to see.