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Winter, 1995. After finishing her homework a teenage girl walks out from her family's cabin on the shores of a frozen Yukon lake. She enters a shack where she had started a fire hours earlier to warm up the place -- it didn't help much. There's no light, but she can see her breath in the beam of the miner-style headlamp she wears. After doing some warm-ups she squats down and grips the bar. She tenses, sets her jaw. And lifts.
Photo: Linda Dawn Hammond / indyfoto.com
When Jeane Lassen was in junior high she was in every sport her school offered: track and field, wrestling, soccer, volleyball and basketball. Then she had the call to take centre stage.
"The weightlifting stuff was on the school's stage -- we didn't have drama. The coach saw me doing all these other sports and told me I should try it, because it could enhance my flexibility and speed," said Lassen.
At this point she was 12 years old, and under a hundred pounds. Now the 22-year-old McGill education student is one of the top female weightlifters in the country, and can lift 276 lbs -- the equivalent of a baby elephant —over her head.
The reason she gravitated to the dumbbells was simple.
"When I was 13 I qualified for the junior nationals, so I got to travel outside the Yukon to Winnipeg and I won some medals. That motivated me to go 'hey, I only get to go to Alaska for soccer, but for weightlifting I can go all over Canada.'"
After that, things started happening quickly. She went to the Canada Games in 1995, then the Junior Worlds in Poland, then the senior national competition. She moved to Montreal when she was seventeen to train with the national team -- she's a member of the Géants de Montréal, a club that operates out of Centre Gadbois in St. Henri.
Lassen's appearance doesn't give away her capability to perform such feats of strength. At 5'7" her physical fitness is obvious, but she doesn't have the rippling muscles and bulging biceps one would expect.
|Photo: Linda Dawn Hammond / indyfoto.com|
It's somewhat counterintuitive, but she explained more muscle sometimes is a hinderance in weightlifting, as it interferes with flexibility. Since weightlifting is a sport with weight classes -- Lassen is in the 69-kilo class -- athletes do not want muscle mass that doesn't contribute to their performance.
The sport consists of two lifts -- the snatch, and the clean and jerk. The snatch is when the lifter squats, grabs the weight, lifts it overhead in one move, and then stands. The clean and jerk is when the lifter squats, raises the weights to shoulder height, stands and then lifts the weight the rest of the way. At one time Lassen held the Canadian records for both lifts -- 97.5 kg and 125.5 kg, set when she was 18.
Lassen has 80 different exercises that break down each element of the two lifts. She trains twenty hours every week. It's a full body endeavor -- not just the arms. Because of this, Lassen said, the sport is well suited to gymnasts.
Although Lassen has competed all over the world -- from Japan to Bulgaria -- she's only now re-starting her weightlifting after stepping back from the sport after the Canadian women's weightlifting team failed to qualify for the 2000 Olympics.
"I was bitter after the Olympics in 2000. I was disappointed in myself for missing my goal. I had moved here mainly for that, and I was thinking why am I still in Montreal? I didn't have any schooling really, since I didn't take a full course load in CEGEP. I got over that -- I have three years of university behind me now," she said. She can look forward to a long future in the sport -- there are competitive lifters as old as 38 on the national team.
"I don't want to put too much into it -- I just want to do it for me. Coming from a small town, everyone would know who I was. I was 'Jeane Lassen' -- I wasn't just Jeane. Everywhere I went people would say to me 'so, are you going to say hi to me when you go to the Olympics?' It doesn't seem like a big thing, but after a while you start to think 'my God, if I don't make it they're going to think I'm a loser.'"
Right now Lassen has her eye on the national championships later this month in Vancouver, and then the World College Games this July in Italy. After that, she hopes to begin training for her shot to go to Athens in 2004. She's keeping a level head about it and trying to find the optimal balance between school and sport.
"I call this my second career -- I'm trying not to stress much about it. If I want to have a beer, I can have a beer. However, getting enough sleep is a dream of mine, with exams and papers."
Two years later and the frozen cabin couldn't be further away. The 1997 World Junior Championships in Cape Town, South Africa, are packed -- school children are bussed in from the city to watch the show. Lassen is a crowd favourite. They stamp and yell, chanting "Ca-na-da! Ca-na-da!" Lassen lifts the weight over her head: she's ties the world junior record! Sadly, she hyper-extends her elbow, dropping the weight. She settles for silver, behind a Chinese weightlifter.
As she stands on the podium, the Canadian flag rises behind her. The crowd is still cheering her as Freddy Mercury's voice pipes in over the speakers: "We, are the champions, my friend. And we'll keep on fighting, till the end... We are the champions of the world."
When someone comes into your office with erectile dysfunction, a red flag should go up.
Montreal has long been known as Sin City North, where playing around has been part of our cultural heritage since Sieur de Maisonneuve founded the city in May 1642. Three hundred and sixty-one years later, McGill has introduced "the world's first student-run speed-dating service so students can feel more comfortable meeting other people," says McGill Speed Dating student club president Michael Perez.
Which raises the question: How ugly are these students?
"None at our last event were ugly," says Perez, a little defensively. Rather, the student-only service offers an environment "where everyone is about the same age. The main concern among girls is whether the guys are young or old."
Perez, a 23-year-old grad student, wishes such a group existed when he first came to McGill. "I've tried internet dating and you don't really know who you're meeting," he explains. "It could be dangerous. So our group ups the comfort level."
Ideally, equal numbers of men and women are paired up, talk for five minutes and then change partners. You tick off the "number" you're interested in and if there's a match, the partners are notified the next day. The club had a 50 percent match-up rate at their April event.
So what do McGill administrators think of the student dating service?
"They like the idea as long as it's clean cut," Perez says.
How long that'll last is anybody's guess. McGill Speed Dating will host several events in the coming weeks, as well as (yikes) frosh week in September.
Surf to www.speed8.com to register for McGill Speed Dating's upcoming events. Admission: $5 for guys, free for women.
Adapted from Hour
For someone to hit twice, it's very, very rare. It's pretty amazing.