Commonwealth Games: Patterson lifts gold

By Kris Shannon in Glasgow

One last lift was the difference between the top of the podium and the depths of despair for Richie Patterson.

The Kiwi weightlifter, ranked No 1 in the Commonwealth and winner of silver four years ago, nearly came away with nothing from this morning's (NZT) 85kg competition in Glasgow.

Two no-lifts in the clean-and-jerk saw him on the precipice of disaster, threatening to squander a top performance in the snatch and the type of form that left him supremely confident of victory.

As is turned out, that confidence was justified. Eventually.

Patterson hoisted his final attempt at 184kg high above his head inside a packed Clyde Auditorium, took a couple of heart-stopping stutter-steps backwards but recovered to hold his stance, see two green lights and claim gold.

"I came here to win, and I put my starting weight so heavy that I was going in to win," he said. "I did a 180 out the back pretty comfortably, so I was pretty confident that I was going to come out and nail the 184.

"And then the first jerk was slightly out in front, and the second jerk I pressed it. I had to go backstage and (coach) Adam (Storey) calmed me down a little bit - I've lifted this weight almost every week, day-in, day-out, and it was just about calming myself back down to go and do it.

"Even the last one, I locked it overhead and had a couple of steps backwards on it, so it was nerve-racking."

The nerves soon dissipated, replaced by redemption for a second place at the last Games that Patterson saw more as the first loser. The silver medal inspired not pride but disappointment, leading him to doubt his future in the days after Delhi.

He reduced training, increased coaching and, crucially, met Phillipa Hale, a fellow weightlifter who set the New Zealand record in competition on the second day of the Games. The pair, who opened an Auckland gym together, are set to be married on Friday (NZT), and Hale's influence saw Patterson begin to focus on his legacy in the sport.

"Qualifying for London and then competing for London gave me a huge motivation to be back here," the 31-year-old said. "I've always said I wanted to be remembered in weightlifting.

"We're 40 years from the '74 Commonwealth Games, which was our most successful, and one of my gym members is (1974 gold-medallist) Tony Ebert, and he's been behind me this whole journey. I'm just so stoked to join that elite group of New Zealand weightlifters - it's been a dream my whole weightlifting career."

One way to cement himself in that elite band would be for Patterson to defend his title in four years' time. There will be no doubts this time, only determination to continue pursuing the passion at the centre of his life.

"Because my life is so revolved around weightlifting - I'm vice president of New Zealand weightlifting, I own a gym, my weightlifting club, I coach all these athletes - it's something you just can't quit.

"As long as my body's healthy I'll probably keep lifting. It's so appealing in the Gold Coast, because it's such a home event, really. We'll have so much support there.

"In four years I hope maybe to be on top of that podium again."

- NZ Herald

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