Record just not enough

ATHENS, Greece -- His shot at America's first weightlifting Olympic medal in the unlimited (really big guys) class in 48 years had come and gone Wednesday night, and Shane Hamman acknowledged a tinge of disappointment even though he had set a record.

It just wasn't enough as a fired-up throng of Iranian fans lingered in the stands at Nikaia Olympic Weightlifting Hall to cheer their repeat Olympic champion Hossein Rezazadeh, who set a world record on the way to gold with a clean-and-jerk lift of 581 pounds (263.5 kilograms).

Seventh overall in Wednesday's competition at a remote arena miles removed from central Athens and the main Olympic sites, Hamman, 32, improved on his 10th place finish four years ago in Sydney and elevated the U.S. combined weight record in his class to 947.9 pounds.

The decisive lift was a clean-and-jerk of 523.6 pounds (237.5 kgs), also an American record. Hamman is now by far the strongest strong man his country has ever seen when you consider that it was a big deal the first time he eclipsed the 400-pound mark for combined weight.

"Seventh is not what I was looking at doing," said Hamman, who trains at the U.S. Olympic center in Colorado Springs but is a native of Mustang, Okla. "But to lift 237.5 with all of the pressure of the Olympics, all the big build-up, it's nice."

So even though he stood in the same corridor late Wednesday as an Iranian, a Latvian (Viktors Scerbatihs) and a Bulgarian (Velichko Cholakov) who earned medals at the Games, the son of an Oklahoma produce farmer was not concealing his trademark grin and effusive personality.

Reasserting himself in Greece -- a long way from Mustang and his youth spent hurling watermelons into trucks -- as the strongest American was not all bad for a day's work.

"That's a cool thing," Hamman said, as a trademark braided strand of beard hung from his chin, a delicate feature on a mammoth, 344-pound frame. "That's something I am very proud of. In Sydney, I had no chance to medal. I was just hoping for top 10. This time, I had big goals, big plans.

"A little more pressure. A lot more pressure."

It showed, too. Already battling a small open wound in the palm of his right hand that flared up during his warm-up, Hamman failed on two lift attempts of 435.4 pounds (197.5 kgs) in the snatch phase, errors that essentially took him out of the medals race in a field of veteran lifters.

The inevitable golf analogy came into the conversation as Hamman analyzed further what had gone wrong here. A 13 handicapper, he reckoned that had he endured the same technical breakdowns Wednesday as a lifter, "I probably would have been slicing the ball all over the place."

Someone inquired if Hamman and his 62-inch chest would be back trying for that elusive Olympic medal in four years time in Beijing. He was not shaking his head. He's not sure, despite feeling great physically and mentally.

"I'm not going to commit for another four years," Hamman said. "But I'm not saying I'm going to retire. I'll just take it year to year. I still believe my best performances are ahead of me."

And he is hoping that includes performance off the tee. On his immediate future, Hamman replied without hesitation.

Nodding to his coach, Dragomir Cioroslan, Hamman said, "We've got a tee time at Country Club of Colorado on Sept. 2."

On the road to excellence, planning is everything.