Weightlifting receives pump of funds


It has been a rollercoaster of a week for USOEC weightlifting. On Friday, it was announced the program would be shut down at the end of the semester due to financial situations within their governing body, USA weightlifting.

But then on Monday, the team was informed their financial burden was covered until June 1 through fundraising efforts made by Werk San Barbells, a top weightlifting equipment supplier to USA Weightlifting.

According to USOEC director Jeff Kleinschmidt, the reason for the initial cut was due to USA Weightlifting not earning any medals at the 2008 Olympics.

“Any time an Olympic team doesn’t do very well, that governing body, or that team, loses some financial support,” he said. “We knew it would be tough financial times for USA weightlifting, and we didn’t know how they were going to adjust their budget and what effect that would have on the program here until recently.”

The announcement was a shock.

“It was a surprise to me that this situation happened. I think it was surprise to everyone,” said head weightlifting coach Andy Tysz.

After learning that USOEC Weightlifting would be cut, Kleinschmidt and Tysz were also informed that USA weightlifting would be searching for funding.

“I was optimistically realistic,” Tysz said. “I thought we could certainly raise the money for the short-term solution. And hopefully that will give us enough time to have things in place to have a long-term solution.”

Kleinschmidt added Werk and USA Weightlifting have made a firm commitment to support the USOEC until the end of the winter semester, and it is their goal to continue funding until the 2012 Summer Olympics.

“It was very encouraging to everyone that there are so many people in USA weightlifting that care about what our program has that they were willing to donate money, and to make sure the program will continue,” he said.

Tysz said, despite the hectic week, his team stayed on track in the gym with its training.

“Fortunately – and it is a testament to their desire and their will to be better and to show the work in the program – they kept the fire and still preformed well,” he said. “There wasn’t one bad practice session after it.”

USOEC weightlifting, which has six full-time athletes and seven facility users, was grateful to see the financial support come through.

“It’s really nice to know you have more time here, and there are people who think this program is worth it,” said junior weightlifter Collin Ito. “It just goes to show that this program is working and it can produce some good stuff.”

Ito said the reason for this support is because Northern’s USOEC is the only training facility located on a college campus, and it gives athletes the opportunity to train and get an education.

“This is a completely different atmosphere,” he said. “It is the ideal place to train and go to college at the same time.”

The weightlifting team brought in four new recruits this season, and fortunately for them, their Olympic strides were not halted due to financial struggles.

Jessica Gallagher, a first year member of the team, said she was shocked to hear the news that the program could be cut.

“It was kind of overwhelming because I didn’t know what I was going to do next semester,” she said. “I really didn’t know anything as far as what was next for me.”

Now that USOEC weightlifting has been reinstated at Northern, a tall order has been put in front of the athletes to produce and to make the funding worth investing in.

“We have to prove to everybody that it is worth having it up here, and that we are getting better and progressing,” Gallagher said. “We are going to be nervous, because if we don’t do well, it looks poorly on the program. If we just stay motivated and confident, then we should be fine.”

NMU will still host the National Collegiate Championships April 7 at the Berry Events Center. The competition will bring in 130 to 150 athletes, and Gallagher said the meet will give the USOEC the opportunity to showcase its talent.

“So now we know for sure that we will be here, and that the competition will be here, so it is definitely motivating for us,” Gallagher said.

But the looming factor that the program could be gone after the first of June is still in the heads of the coaches and athletes.

Tysz said it is still too early to see if the money will be found to continue after next semester but he added his team will continue to train hard.