After a brutal schedule to qualify for the World Weightlifting Championships back in July at the Samoa Games, one of the island's representatives – Dayanara Calma – finally got a taste of top-caliber competition in Pattaya, Thailand this past week.
For the other weightlifter who qualified, Jacinta Sumagaysay, it was a day of frustration and anger after she was told she couldn't compete due to a technical issue with officials from the International Weightlifting Federation.
"Jacinta and I are both angry and frustrated about how this technical officials from other countries doesn't accept their mistakes," said Guam coach Edgar Molinos. "Jacinta had to be a victim of their mistakes.
The incident is under investigation by IWF, said Molinos, adding he is just waiting on their response to a formal inquiry.
Both athletes have been training intensively since the 2019 Samoa Games in July after qualifying, Molinos said.
"Right after the Pacific Games in Samoa, we had a short period of time to prepare, but our training went really well preparing for this World Championships," he said.
Calma competed Friday in the 59-kilogram Category Group D. She finished the snatch with 66kg and the Clean & Jerk at 85 kg for a total of 151kg – three kilograms short of her qualifying total at PG of 154kg – but becoming the first Guam athlete to complete a total at the World Championships.
"The nerves just got to her, but she fought it well and she lifted two completed attempts out of six," Molinos said.
Calma said she didn't hit the numbers she planned, but she was happy to make total.
"I can never be unappreciative of an event where I do total," she said. "This is my first ever worlds and Guam athlete to make a total, so I’m pretty happy."
The 59kg is a competitive group, and Calma was in the thick of competition despite not making the podium. Her stellar finish only served to whet her appetite for future competitions.
" But that’s competition, you never know until the day of while you’re warming up," she said, adding that she worked to stick with her training to keep her grounded during the world-class competition. "I hope to compete in the next worlds."
It's been a long road to Pacific Games and then to the World Championships, Calma said.
"We had a shorter training period from PG to Worlds compared to training for PG," she said. "I tried to hit my set numbers in training a few weeks before just to get used to them and if I need to make changes as I go. I tried to use the same strategy I did with Worlds as I did with Pacific Games."
The past few months have not been without their sacrifice, she said. She took a break from school last semester to train to qualify.
"Mentally, I was excited. This is my first worlds," she said. "Physically, it was draining. But I had to keep the goal in mind. ... So I really tried to do everything I can to prep for this competition."
Now that the immediate competition is done, Calma is looking forward to a slight break, enjoying a small vacation in Thailand before she hits the weights again.
Short term, she said, is to "rest, recover, reflect, and prep for my next competition."
Long term, she said, is "continue training and improving as much as I can."
Regardless of the stresses of the sport, Calma said she loves the sport and can see herself pursuing it.
"It definitely challenges me as an athlete. Not just physically but definitely mentally," she said. "To see how far I’ve come definitely makes me hungry to keep training and see how far this sport can take me. It makes me want to improve as a person and athlete."
The sport has opened doors for her, she said, some that she could never see herself going through.
"You should train for this sport or any sport really because you love it. ... If you enjoy it, you will succeed as an athlete because your motivation and drive will keep you going," she said. "And once you start improving and qualifying for certain events, the opportunities open."
For Sumagaysay, she was happy to see her teammate compete, but definitely felt the pain of her withdrawal.
"I was heartbroken and I felt like I let down everyone who supported me," said Sumagaysay. "Coach Ed fought hard for me, but there was nothing more he could do."
But, like a true athlete, the tears she cried are all gone and she is looking forward, channeling her frustration and focus toward her next goal.
"I had my dramatic five minutes and let it go," she said.
"Although this opportunity was taken away from me, it only makes me want to push harder ... This is just another obstacle that has gotten in my way," she said. "And, like all the other (obstacles), I will over come it ... I have been training too hard to let this get in (the) way of something I have so much passion for."
What's next for Team Guam?
For Coach Molinos, the World Championships are done and there's more to be done if his band of nine strong want to be competitive.
"Our short goal is to be able to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and this World Championships is a qualifying event," Molinos said. "Guam has to participate in six IWF sanction competitions in 18 months."
There are four more competitions to participate in with their next big one – Qatar International Weightlifting Open Championships – slated for December and three more events in 2020 right before the Olympics, he said.
"For the rest of lifters, we'll be preparing for our Guam National competition in January 2020," he said. "Jacinta will need to compete in three other events in Rome, Australia and Nauru before the Olympics to qualify."
According to Molinos, he has nine lifters who have been grinding day in and day out to get ready for the 2021 Mini Games in Saipan, the 2021 Asian Indoor Martial Arts, which weightlifting is part of this event.
"Our nine athletes are dedicated to train and compete to represent Guam, and we don't get paid for this," he said, adding his athletes do it simply for the "pure passion for Olympic weighlifting sport."
"We would like to thank GNOC, ... Chamorri CrossFit, our family and friends for their unlimited support for weightlifting," he said.