Logan Avant made a good move when he traded in his football cleats for weightlifting shoes. The local lifter developed quickly and earned a bronze medal the last weekend of July at the 2012 Junior Olympics in Houston.
The accomplishment exceeded his expectations and those of Team Hinesville weightlifting coach Chris Wood.
“He had an injury with his rib, so he actually didn’t lift for about three to four months because of that,” Wood said. “He only got about three or four weeks of training before he participated.”
Avant, 16, said he started lifting seriously in January but stopped in April as he prepared to go back to training for the Bradwell Institute football team. With the injury he sustained, however, he wasn’t able to weight lift properly until early July.
At the Junior Olympics, Avant took the stage and competed in the 94 kilogram weight class. He cleared 60 kilos in his first snatch, 65 in his second and 70 in his final attempt. In the clean and jerk, Avant cleared 75, 80 and 83 kilos, enough to score a trip to the podium, where he received a bronze medal.
Not only was it Avant’s first Junior Olympic showing, it was his first national event as a weightlifter.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “Going there just to compete is a great experience, but bringing home a medal is even better. The overall feeling was just fantastic, honestly.”
And the experience cemented his decision to hang up his football helmet.
“I choose to do weightlifting instead of football,” he said.
Avant said he is used to lifting as part of the football program, but he hit a plateau once he reached a certain weight.
“Since I came here, Chris (Wood) showed me a few techniques, like how to kick and how to drive the bar within my jerk so I can actually lift higher and get the weight up better,” he said. “As far as the snatch, I never did that before coming here, and now I’m doing better than what a lot of people normally do. When I first started off in January, I had, like, a 40 snatch and, like, a 50 clean and jerk, but now I have a 73 snatch and a 90 clean and jerk. It’s amazing, and I can tell that this is the sport I really want to do.”
Wood said he is impressed with how quickly Avant improved, adding it was a matter of changing a few techniques and the young athlete’s mind set.
“I think in a football weight room, the biggest thing people focus on is the number, and in this sport it is more about how it is done because the number will always come eventually,” Wood said. “We have a lot of lifters that come in here and are like, ‘Hey, I got stronger. My numbers went up,’ but in all reality, they didn’t actually get stronger. It’s just because they are technically more efficient, so they end up doing a better job.”
Avant said he is going to work hard and try to earn a scholarship to a college or university that offers weight lifting and that trains student athletes for Team USA.
Avant trains four days a week, for two hours each day. He modified his diet, eliminating most junk foods, and adding in more fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates.
“I dropped 15 pounds and gained so much more muscle,” he said. “I mean, I used to be strong when I was lifting for Bradwell and playing for them, but now I’ve gotten so much stronger. This sport is so much better than the weightlifting the teams do for football.”
Avant aspires to join fellow Team Hinesville teammate James Fox, who brought home a Junior Olympics silver medal, in making the 2016 Olympic team.
Avant said his personal best in the clean and jerk is 88 kilos and 73 kilos in the snatch. By the time the 2013 Junior Olympics roll around, he would like to clear 115 in the clean and jerk and 100 in the snatch.
Wood said the Junior Olympics was his first national event as Team Hinesville’s coach. In addition to Avant and Fox, he said, two other Team Hinesville weightlifters medaled at the event.
“They give medals to first through sixth place,” Wood said, and brothers Bryce and Morgan Crean did exceptionally well.
Bryce Crean, 10, competed in the 56 kilo class and finished in second place for a silver medal. His older brother, Morgan, 17, competed in the 77 kilo class and finished sixth.
“It was amazing,” Wood said of his Junior Olympic coaching experience. “It was a great thing to watch and a great moment for me. “
The coach said Avant, Fox, the Crean brothers and the rest of Team Hinesville now are preparing for their next meet.
“Next month there should be a meet in Savannah, and I want to try and take as many people … I think the first time we went to a competition we took two athletes, and I might have as many as 10 at this point,” Wood said.
The coach said he will help Avant stay focused as he shoots for his next goal.
“The big one he is looking for is school-age nationals,” Wood said. “That doesn’t happen until next July, so he has a long time to qualify for that.”
Avant has set an intermediate goal in anticipation of the competition.
“I have a two-month goal within my snatch to try and get 80,” he said. “I want to hit that by the end of October. For the clean and jerk, my two-month goal is 95. It is a big mental game.
“When I go out there, I try and clear my head as much as possible because I don’t want anything to mess with me while I lift.”