Mattie’s record-smashing gold show

Marshall Islands weightlifter Matti Sasser set new records with her gold medal performance at the Fiji Oceania Championships. Photo: Adi Nocala, Grasskirt Photograph.
Marshall Islands weightlifter Mattie Sasser set new records with her gold medal performance at the Fiji Oceania Championships. Photo: Adi Nocala, Grasskirt Photograph.

Marshall Islands weightlifters Mathlynn “Mattie” Sasser and Kabuati Bob joined over 200 athletes from 19 countries at the 2016 Oceania Weightlifting Championships and Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Suva, Fiji last month. Mattie set numerous records on her way to winning gold and was honored at the tournament’s closing as the Best Junior Female Lifter and Best Senior Female Lifter of the competition.

For both Mattie and Kabuati, the competition was the culmination of four and a half years twice-per-day, seven-hours-per-day training. Nineteen-year old Mattie, who is in her final year as a junior competitor, knew going into the competition that to win the 58kg (127lb) senior tournament she would have to defeat veteran Jenly Tegu Wini of Solomon Islands and cross-fitter Tia-Clair Toomey of Australia, to whom Mattie came in third at last year’s Pacific Games. 

“When Marshall Islands Weightlifting Federation (MIWLF) President Tony Muller, Coach Mack Capelle and I discussed strategy before the competition, there were two areas we knew Mattie had to deliver to have a shot at Rio,” Head Coach Terry Sasser said. “We decided that we should let both Mattie and Kabuati go for it during competition. In the sport of weightlifting, it is sometimes just going one kilogram up on your opponent, but we knew the impeccable work ethic of our athletes and we knew their personal best lifts.” 

After just missing her 88kg/194lb snatch attempt, Mattie’s top snatch of 85kg/187lb tied her with Tia for second place, two points behind Jenly’s 87kg/192lb snatch, going into the clean and jerk portion of the competition. However, Mattie has a strong clean and jerk, so while Australia started at 104kg/229lb and Solomons at 105kg/231lb, Mattie started with 108kg/238lb. After her first clean and jerk, Mattie was in first place, breaking her own Junior record. Her second lift was set at 113kg/249lb and she stayed firm there so both Australia and Solomon Islands had to increase their lifts to catch up with her. Jenly from Solomons only raised her total to 108kg/238lb, which she completed, but Mattie’s coaching team held to their strategic plan, knowing Mattie could lift 113kg. When Mattie successfully cleaned and jerked 113kg, making it look easy, she propelled herself back into first place and broke the standing senior clean and jerk record. 

Because Jenly only made a 3kg jump between her first and second lift, our coaches were confident that 113kg would be difficult for her to match, and she failed to complete the lift. Already the winner, with one lift remaining, Mattie increased her weight by only 1kg to lift a new competition personal best and again break the senior clean and jerk record with her final lift of 114kg/251lb for a 199kg/439lb combined total. “This was a huge win for Mattie and Kabuati in front of all the right people, including IWF’s top executives,” MIWLF President Tony Muller said. These are accomplishments that the country should be proud of, he said. “Both lifters were successful with five of their six lifts, and Mattie broke records with each of her lifts, for a total of six new junior and two new senior Oceania 58kg records.”

Kabuati Bob achieved a fourth place finish in the 85kg/187lb competition behind New Zealand, Samoa and Australia. In a field of thirteen 85kg lifters, he just missed a third place finish. 

His 294kg/648lb combined total improved his previous competition personal best by 12kg since last year’s Pacific Games.  Competing lift for lift with the top lifters in Oceania in the Olympic Qualifier, Kabuati beat lifters from New Caledonia, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Guam, Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati. At 21, he was the youngest senior lifter in his weight class.  Each of his lifts was a personal competition best and it was clear that, coming out of the junior category, Kabuati is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Oceania senior weight class.

Read more about this in the June 10, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.