Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Weightlifting: Patterson to aim for gold without Santa

Richie Patterson is training in Finland. Photo / Getty Images
Richie Patterson is training in Finland. Photo / Getty Images

Richie Patterson has sought the help of a one-legged team-mate, a former New Zealand Olympian and even Santa Claus in his weightlifting career.

Now he's about to help himself in his quest for success in the 85kg class at the London Olympics.

Yesterday, Patterson headed to Tampere in southern Finland to put the final touches to his Games build-up. He flies to London on July 22 for the first time since playing halfback for the Auckland Grammar 1st XV on a rugby tour to Britain 12 years ago.

The 29-year-old has a loyal band of followers. Mates doing their OEs in London and some of the Finnish gym troupe he's working with over the next fortnight are hoping to watch him compete. His mum and his girlfriend will also be in the audience.

However, they can't help when Patterson strides onto the platform.

That's when Patterson must rely on his watchwords: Rhythm and speed.

"I find they help me focus and control the movement so I get explosive power into the delivery."

The routine earned him 21st in the 77kg class at Beijing; he's ranked 30th in the world in the 85kg class.

Patterson moved up an Olympic class because it was becoming harder to slim from a natural bodyweight of 81kg.

"I couldn't hold the muscle mass and it gave me fewer niggles when recovering from injury."

Patterson hoisted a combined clean and jerk/snatch of 334kg at the Commonwealth and Oceania Championships in Apia last month and scored 345kg at an Auckland interclub meet in April.

To medal in London, he'll likely need a combined lift upwards of 380kg.

One of Patterson's aims is to be the lightest New Zealander to lift over 200kg in the clean and jerk; his best is 190kg. In the snatch his best is 155kg; he's aiming to drive up 160kg.

If he completes a 360kg total he's likely to advance into the top 16, further justifying the New Zealand Olympic Committee's qualifying criteria.

Patterson needed the help of Tevita Ngalu in the 105+kg class last month to get New Zealand enough team points to qualify an Olympic athlete. The 39-year-old biscuit factory worker clean and jerked 157kg on a torn quadriceps muscle to ensure Patterson's Games ticket.

Patterson has also used the wisdom of Tony Ebert, a 1972 Olympian and middleweight gold medallist at the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games.

Ebert and his wife run Milford Real Estate and have sponsored Patterson since 2007.

"He's been a regular at our club [Northsport] to bounce ideas off," Patterson says. "When you climb a mountain, you need a guide who's been to the top. Tony's been a role model. He's taught me patience.

"He's encouraged me to be honest with myself to put in the required work. That can mean yelling to get you to perform when you're on the floor thinking you can't do it any more."

Patterson famously sought Santa Claus' help ahead of the Delhi Commonwealth Games when he took silver with a combined 331kg lift in the 85kg class.

It came after four months working with Finnish coach Ari Moilanen in a town called Rovaniemi in the Arctic circle - Santa's official home.

The world's best-known chimney sweep sent Patterson a personal message.

Patterson will not visit Santa when he returns to Finland for the first time since 2010. The heart of the European summer is the red-suited man's off-season.

Instead Patterson will participate in a final intense training push in the south.

Yet nothing will match the intensity when Patterson returns to the Olympic training hall.

"That's where the action happens.

"You're surrounded by countless world champions and record holders lifting tin. It is spectacular."

- Herald on Sunday

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