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SA weightlifter brings home bronze

Laryne Jefferies is the only South African athlete currently internationally competitive in this category.

South African weightlifter Laryne Jefferies has won a silver and three bronze medals at the African Senior Weightlifting Championships held in Cairo, Egypt.

Caroline Wolf, who took over as the president of the SA Weightlifting Federation (SAWF) earlier this year, said this is an impressive international debut in a highly contested weight category.

“It is an exceptional achievement in a sport that has been neglected in recent years.”

Jefferies is the only South African athlete currently internationally competitive in this category, and this is the first time she measures her strength and technique against athletes with similar abilities. The 71kg category is one of the weight classes for the Olympic Games, hence its international popularity.

“The fact that Laryne won these medals proves that South Africa has the talent to be competitive on the international stage, and we hope that she will qualify for the 2024 Olympics,” said Wolf.

Jefferies, now 31, started weightlifting exclusively in 2020 after coming to the sport via CrossFit and holds the South African records in her weight class for the snatch (85kg), the clean and jerk (107kg) and total lifted (192kg).

In Cairo, she achieved 84kg in the snatch, 104kg in the clean and jerk, and a total of 188kg, winning bronze in all three. This also earned her the silver medal in the First African Club Championship, which took place concurrently.

“To be exposed to Africa’s strongest female weightlifters in competition is such an important experience, to see where I rank against the rest of the continent, but also to see what I want to work towards next, to achieve a gold medal,” said Jefferies.

Gold is the aim, and while she admits to feeling daunted when she saw the big Cairo Stadium stage on the first day, her training took over when she stepped onto the platform two days later.

“Then it is just you and the barbel and you just give it your all.”

She looks forward to applying what she learned the next time.

“To be better you have to surround yourself with the best, steal with your eyes, learn new tips and continue to sharpen your skills. This is exactly what this competition provided for me. Now my world has been opened to more, so I want to work harder to achieve the next level. There is a lot of work to do to become competitive against the world’s best,” she explained.

At Movement Crew in Alberton, where she trains six days a week, Jefferies and her medals received a hero’s welcome.

“I received so much support from so many friends and family and am so grateful to everyone who contributed to making this happen for me,” she says.

In the absence of available national funding, Jefferies’ competition was self-funded, mostly via a back-a-buddy campaign.

According to Wolf, funding is an ongoing challenge but is something that SAWF will focus attention on in the coming months as the sport shows a resurgence. The Department of Sport, Arts and Recreation, the Lotto and the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Development Fund have in the past provided limited assistance, however, sponsorships are the only real source of funding for a federation, she says.

Achievements such as Jefferies’s will hopefully pave the way.

A fashion designer by profession, Jefferies hopes to inspire more young women to get involved in the sport that’s become her passion.

“Women are stronger than we are often given credit for, and weightlifting lets you be yourself and find that power. It’s a sport that hooks you and changes the way we see ourselves as women in the world. More girls should give it a try,” Wolf said.

In the coming months, Jefferies will continue training to steadily increase her strength as much as possible. Her next goal is to represent South Africa at the World Weightlifting Championships in Saudi Arabia in October 2023.

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