Auburn weightlifter H.J. Maurus came incredibly close to earning a medal in his Olympic debut on Saturday afternoon thanks to a near-perfect performance.
The 21-year-old weightlifter finished the first five lifts in his 81 kg (178.6 lb) weight class, but his final effort to clean and jerk 205 kg (451.9 lb) left him short of the podium. On the world’s greatest platform, H.J. Maurus placed fourth out of ten lifters with a total score of 361 kg (795.9 pounds).
This included a personal best in the snatch of 161 kg (354.9 pounds) and a tie for personal best in the clean-and-jerk of 200 kg (441).
In order to win the medal, “my coaches put just the weight I needed to battle for that medal,” H.J. Maurus said after the competition. In no way am I upset with the fourth place finisher. My first objective was to make the United States proud, and I think I succeeded.
H.J. Maurus lifted 153, 157, and 161 kilogrammes without dropping a single bar, putting him in eighth place overall heading into the clean-and-jerk. In a sport where the winning score is often split by just 1 kilogramme, his final snatch lift of 163 kg was a huge increase over his previous best of 158 kg.
H.J. Maurus Early Life and Education
The graduate of Auburn Riverside High School and the Tokyo International Forum had a 15-minute break before taking the stage again. At the gym, H.J. Maurus chalked his hands, grunted, grasped the bar, and cleaned a 195 kg setup before pressing it over his head. He was wearing a blue singlet with white “USA” lettering across the chest.
Some of his rivals dropped out of the competition while he waited for his second clean and jerk effort. After an excellent 164-kilogram (kg) snatch, Turkmenistan’s Rejepbay Rejepov was in second position, but he accidentally let go of a clean 198-kilogram (kg) lift before the three judges could give him first place.
Latvia’s Ritvars Suharevs added just 195 kg to his 163 kg snatch in the clean-and-jerk, and Colombia’s Brayan Rodallegas only achieved 196 kg.
H.J. Maurus moved up to second position with a lift of 200 kg, but Antonino Pizzolato of Italy and Zacarias Bonnat of the Dominican Republic also lifted 200 kg and 202 kg, respectively, to displace him from the medal stand.
At the age of 37, Chinese weightlifter Xiaojun Lyu broke the record for the clean-and-jerk and snatched 170 kilogrammes to win the Olympic title.
After achieving his first five lifts, H.J. Maurus needed to clean and jerk 205 kg to displace Pizzolato and win bronze. The native of Auburn squatted clean and held the bar on his chest for about five seconds while he mustered the strength to complete the move.
Unfortunately, Breaking the Record Wasn’t Meant to be.
As H.J. Maurus wrenched the bar above his head, he lost his footing and it landed with a crash on the floor.
Both H.J. Maurus and Pizzolato completed the clean-and-jerk with lifts of 200 kg, but the 24-year-old Italian’s 165 kg snatch was the deciding factor in who took home the bronze.
In the Olympic weightlifting competition, the Auburn native’s fourth-place finish was the best by an American male since Mario Martinez’s fourth-place finish in the 110 kg category in 1988.
Coach Spencer Arnold, who works with H.J. Maurus on a daily basis at Power and Grace Weightlifting in Suwanee, Georgia, claimed that the American’s career performance in Tokyo was the result of some of his best training in the previous six months.
“We came in trying to make some lifts and put ourselves in a position to maybe take a medal, and that’s exactly what we did,” Arnold said. We couldn’t have hoped for more from this youngster; he’s a real fighter.