How an avocado nearly cost weightlifter his national title
IPSWICH Weightlifting Club coach Jax Solofa already has the utmost respect from his peers and pupils, thanks to his committed and caring approach to training his athletes.
But he is still a man of considerable pride. Winning the Australian Weightlifting Federation national title for the 109kg-plus category meant more to him than just standing atop the podium for the first time in four attempts.
To Solofa, his gold medal was vindication for practising what he preaches. It meant joining club members Charlie and Adelaide Utz, and Braydan Fender as a national weightlifting champion.
"A lot of relief. Also a lot of pride," Solofa said of the emotions immediately following his gold medal-winning 176kg clean & jerk.
"I like to think I lead from the front. My athletes are watching me - there were five of my own athletes who competed - and being a new weightlifting club, I've always wanted to set a good example and lead from the front, so my athletes know I'm not just a coach.
"If they can see their coach is doing it, hopefully that gives them enough motivation to continue to train hard and reach the goals they're after as well."
The former Goodna Eagles rugby league player said he drew motivation from his athletes, his previous podium failings, and "a few things that have happened this year" in finally achieving his goal.
Solofa shared an insight into the day-to-day training of a national weightlifting champion.
"My coach builds a program around a competition - there's a lot of volume in the beginning, and as you get closer to competition you start to do heavier singles to max out your lifts," he said.
"There's a lot of strategy to weightlifting. It's not just about who can lift the heaviest - I didn't lift any personal bests. My coach figured out what the other guys were lifting, and adjusted my weights accordingly to make sure I could pip those guys to get the gold medal."
But Solofa's stringent preparation was almost completely undone just weeks out from the competition.
Upon reflection, he can laugh at the ludicrous nature of it all. But at the time it shook the normally infallible big man.
"An avocado," Solofa said with a chuckle. "I'm allergic to avocados apparently.
"I always eat them, but this one time it nearly choked me out . . . anaphylactic shock. I spent the whole day in hospital, I couldn't breathe.
"That put a massive dent in my training leading up to nationals. It put a dent in my confidence . . . the anxiety levels reached a bit of a high, but I managed to get through it."