For weightlifter Antonette Labausa, Feb. 23 would mark her second month training in Samoa.
The 25-year-old left Saipan for Samoa last Dec. 23 to train for the 2020 Oceania Championships in April and so far so good for the former Da’Ok Academy teacher.
“I am training in Apia, Samoa. My training has been going great. Since I’ve been here for the past seven weeks I have already increased my personal bests on my training total by 10kg. My snatch increased by 3kg and my clean and jerk increased by 7kg. I couldn’t even do that training on my own on Saipan. I spent close to a year training without breaking a personal best. The training atmosphere here with Samoa’s elite athletes has really pushed me to progress really quickly and I am sure I will progress even more before the Oceania Championships in April,” she told Saipan Tribune in a social media message.
In fact, the 5’2”, 76-kg Labausa just last week broke her personal best in the clean and jerk by lifting 101kg.
The daughter of James Labausa and Cecilia Tudela said with the hard work she continues to put in, she is confident she can break more of her personal bests and perform well at the Oceania Championships.
“My goal for the Oceania Championships is to improve my best competition total by 20-30kgs. I am aiming for a gold medal and I want to do my best to represent our islands well.”
Labausa, however, admits that training with Samoa’s elite athletes under Samoa Weightlifting team head coach Jerry Wallwork is tough.
“Our training is very serious and intense. We train two to three times a day, six days a week. Each training session can last from 1-2 hours but it is very intense. We do a lot of squatting and variations of the snatch and clean and jerk. We also do a lot of bodybuilding exercises for the back, upper body, and core to keep the body strong and to prevent injuries from when we perform the explosive lifts.”
A basketball player growing up, Labausa actually got her start in weightlifting completely by accident.
“It’s a funny story, I just finished the 2014 Micronesian Games playing in the sport of basketball, which we ended up getting bronze for. I knew nothing about weightlifting. I returned to Hawaii as I was attending the University of Hawaii there. I was at work, a waitress at the time, and one of the restaurant’s regular customers that I was attending to told me that I looked like I would be good at weightlifting.”
Labausa eventually was invited to check out an Olympic weightlifting gym in Honolulu and that same customer, who remarked she would be good at weightlifting, ended up being her first weightlifting coach.
“When I tried the snatch and clean and jerk, I just fell in love with the sport. It made me feel like superwoman and it still makes me feel that way.”
As far as the measles epidemic currently gripping the island, Labausa said she tries not to worry and just makes sure she remains healthy.
“I think I can only speak for myself when I say I’m not concerned at all. I made sure my immunizations were up to date before going on this trip and got an extra booster shot just in case. We all stay in the gym where our training camp is at so there’s not much contact with other people outside of weightlifting, so the likeliness [of getting measles] is pretty slim,” she said.
But if there’s a drawback training in Samoa, Labausa admitted it would be pining for loved ones and the food back home.
“I miss the food and my fiancé. But Samoa is a beautiful place, and they have such a simple lifestyle just like Saipan, so I haven’t been too homesick yet,” she said.
Half a decade into the sport, Labausa said weightlifting has given her more than she has given it.
“Weightlifting is a very hard sport. It takes a lot of physical strength and most importantly, mental strength to train and compete. The sport has brought me more than just strength but it’s taught me patience, grit, self-confidence, and has taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic, which I feel like transfers to my daily life. I’ve been lifting for about five years now but I feel like everything has just begun.”