How the US silver medalist swapped an island life for snow, wind and weightlifting success
LIMA, 29 July – US weightlifter Mattie SASSER swapped the tropical Marshall Islands for snowy, windswept Illinois to pursue her dreams of Olympic glory.
Three years ago SASSER was proudly carrying the flag of her home nation, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, at the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Now she proudly wears the stars-and-stripes of her adopted homeland, winning silver in the women’s 64kg at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games for her new country to move a step closer to qualifying for next year’s Olympics.
“I lived on a tiny island before moving to the capital city, Majuro,” said SASSER, whose first home was so remote she had to take a boat to the capital, while her diet was largely fish caught that day.
“I used to do track and field but then one day my father told me to try weightlifting,” SASSER said. “I was scared of it as I was such a tiny girl. But I didn’t know I would fall in love with it so much.”
After Rio, the 22-year-old SASSER knew if she wanted to improve and challenge for medals she had to move to the United States and embrace the Chicago suburbs, despite the culture shock and speaking little English.
“I have a family in the US, though my parents can’t move as they are still working in the Marshall Islands,” dual national SASSER added.
“But I wanted to join the US team as I thought I’d have more opportunities to grow my career. The facilities are really different. At home I trained in a very small gym. It was really tiny and there was no air-conditioning.
“It is always hot where I am from so I only saw snow for the first time when I moved to the US.
“It was hard to move and last year was a bit of a struggle as my English wasn’t very good. The food was different and I couldn’t see the ocean. But it is what it is.
“It’s worth it if you want something. When I look back to last year, everything has changed – my career, leaving home, everything.
“To get the silver makes it worth it. It had been a long road but I wouldn’t have stood on the platform here but for the support from the American team.”
Source: NSLima2019 ig/mb