Trials result gives Friend hope for 2012

Matt Forman

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Northwestern freshman Natalie Friend finished 13th overall at the 2008 U.S. Weightlifting Olympic Trials in Atlanta on May 16, her first showing against the best professional lifters in the nation.

She lifted 78 kilograms in the Snatch and 102 kgs in the Clean and Jerk, placing third in the Women’s B division, which featured nationally ranked lifters No. 11-20. Only the top four lifters qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

“I’m glad I went because I won’t be as terrified (the next time I go),” Friend said. “Everyone was so serious, and there was so much pressure all around.”

And while Friend did not qualify for the 2008 Games, she is a 2012 Olympic candidate, according to her experienced lifting coach, Mike Gattone.

Friend agreed with her coach.

“I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance for 2012 if I keep improving and stay healthy,” she said.

Gattone trained 2000 Olympic Gold Medal-winning weightlifter Tara Knott, the first woman to win gold in the sport.

“I’ve got a great coach,” Friend said. “He’s always coming up with these new things for me to do. That’s always a big help.”

After this year’s Olympic Games, several top female lifters are expected to retire, making room for younger athletes – like 19-year-old Friend – to take their places.

Friend has already garnered attention on the national stage. She competed in the USA Weightlifting National Junior Championships earlier this year and was named the competition’s “Best Lifter.” Friend has been pleased with her results since she started training with Gattone at the beginning of this school year.

“It was a big improvement from the last couple of years,” Friend said. “It also means that in the next four years I could (qualify) for the World Team or the Pan-Am Team.”

Friend said making these teams would be worthy accomplishments, but not the pinnacle of her sport – the Olympics. In order to qualify for London 2012, she said she would follow a basic recipe. One that does not include steroids, she joked.

“Basically, it’s just going to the gym every day, ” Friend said. “It’s not really any magic formula.”