“My legs I guess.”
That is Jeanne Lassen’s response when asked if she has any good luck charms she attributes to her on-going success in the world of weightlifting.
The 27-year-old seems unperturbed as she sits back on a black folding chair in the far corner at Better Bodies Cross Training Centre, the gym she has called her home training grounds for the past year or so.
Her relaxed demeanour is somewhat surprising considering just a few days earlier she lifted her way onto the Team Canada roster heading to Beijing this summer to compete at the Summer Olympics.
“I’m pretty happy to be officially qualified for sure,” explains Lassen as the clanging of weights and squash balls fills the room. “Before it was unofficially official, but now it’s officially official and that’s a huge achievement for me.”
Lassen’s ticket to Beijing was stamped in convincing fashion as she shattered her own Canadian record by a whopping five kilos.
She actually broke the record twice snatching and jerking first 107 kilograms and then the record-breaking 110.
In doing so well at the National qualifier in Quebec, Lassen not only cements herself as one of the Yukon’s all-time great athletes but also heads to China as a strong hopeful to medal.
“It felt good because it’s so hard to be an Olympian,” says a passionate and focused Lassen when asked to describe her initial response to realizing she had indeed qualified for the 2008 Summer Games. “It’s very satisfying to know that as an athlete you were able to put everything you have into that one moment.”
This will be Lassen’s first time competing at the Olympics and she will be one of three women to don the maple leaf for Canada’s weightlifting team.
In fact, prior to Lassen’s Olympic qualification, only one other Canadian woman had competed at the Olympics for women’s weightlifting, that being Maryse Turcotte.
“I remember thinking as an eight-year-old that it would be pretty cool to be an Olympian,” explains Lassen as she takes a well-deserved sip from her venti-sized coffee from Starbucks, admittedly her only vice.
Lassen, whose modesty pars her natural strength, is quick to credit her hometown for her continued success and recent Olympic berth.
It was just over a year ago that Lassen decided to pack her bags in Montréal and move back to Whitehorse.
Faced with the daunting task of no coach or training partner, Lassen can now look back in satisfaction with her decision.
“It’s been way better for me … way, way better,” smiles Lassen. “It’s such a positive and supportive environment and I can get a lot more done here because I’m not wasting time travelling around.”
For Lassen, that means more training sessions and more rest time.
Financially, Lassen says the community has also been outstanding, specifically Pelly Construction that is Lassen’s prime sponsor thanks to a $50,000 donation earlier this year.
It was at the Pelly Construction sponsorship party that Lassen was able to lure her current training partner and fellow 2008 Olympian, Jasvir Singh and Guy Greavette, north.
“They saw what the Yukon community is like and really fell in love with the place.”
Lassen says having a training partner and coach with her in Whitehorse has been ideal and was made possible thanks to the financial support.
“Having that financial burden lifted off my shoulders is huge,” explains Lassen.
And while Lassen is focused on standing on the podium at Beijing, she also realizes that the training can’t slow until she is there competing.
“It’s a huge goal that I’ve achieved but, at the same time, I have to be at peace with the possibility that something could happen. I’m not there until I’m there.”
With that, Lassen is still determined to win a medal in China.
The Olympics is just that … the Olympics,” explains Lassen. “Every other competition has been a qualifier to get there but, at the Olympics, it’s all out and you have nothing to lose.
“If I have to take a month off because I’m sore, I can do that after the Games. I’m going for the podium.”
PHOTO: GEORGE MARATOS