Spectators cheered, whistled, hollered and pumped up the 20 athletes who lifted barbells carrying weights of 200 to 300 pounds in Olympic-style weight lifting in Camana Bay this weekend.

Weight lifters, ranging in ages from 20 to 55, were competing in the weight-lifting competition at Camana Bay Arts and Recreation Centre on Saturday.

Athletes performed the “snatch” and the “clean and jerk,” the two lifts contested in Olympic weight-lifting competitions.

The objective of the snatch is to lift the barbell from the ground to overhead in one continuous motion. With the clean and jerk, two movements are required – lifting the barbell from the floor to above the shoulders and then to a stationery position above the head.

“This is the first time we were doing the event in Cayman and it was big,” said Matthew Barnett, organizer of the event.

Mr. Barnett is a professional weight lifter, U.S. baseball player and owner of Cayman CrossFit Gym.

Athlete Tomy Wilkerson, lifting 211 pounds and finishing with a clean and jerk at 264 pounds, said the event was fun but nerve-wracking.

“It’s different when you are working out in a gym versus being here, and everyone is looking at you,” said Mr. Wilkerson.

“It’s you and the barbell and you are trying to find that zone, [but] once you finish you feel good, you feel accomplished, and you want to do that again, or, you think you could have done more. Still, you come away excited and invigorated to see what progress you have made. I am excited to see what happens next,” Mr. Wilkerson said.

Cameron Leitch also found the event a little nerve-wracking but was glad he participated. He said he does weight lifting on a regular basis and is looking forward to doing it again. Mr. Leitch lifted 300 pounds.

“The crowd was great and showed real appreciation for the event. It shows that there is actual interest in Cayman for the sport,” said Mr. Barnett.

The event, he said, was really for the youth of Cayman in the future. “It’s for them to have a road to the Olympics and to have a place where they can train, whether it’s at my CrossFit gym or someplace else,” he said.

“Already, we have USA weight lifting and other organizations around the world that want to support Cayman to develop a program,” he added. He said he had started Cayman Islands weight lifting to develop the sport in Cayman.

The competition, he said, depended on the skill of the athletes, but individuals were lifting 200 to 300 pounds. “On the Olympic level, athletes lift in the range of 300 to 400 pounds,” Mr. Barnett said.

During Saturday’s event, no one hit an Olympic score, but there were plenty of heavy weights lifted.

“These are just average people with full-time jobs, and it’s just something they love to do on the side of the gym,” he said. “I coach some of the athletes to the point where they are competent in the lift and where it’s safe for them to do.”

Cameron Leitch takes part in Saturday’s weight-lifting competition at the Arts and Recreation Centre. – Photo: Jewel Levy

He said the event could have been a sanctioned event if the athletes had hit an international score.

Two-time Olympian coach Michael Cowen judged the competition.

Mr. Barnett got into weight lifting to improve his strength while playing baseball in the U.S. He made it to the Reebok CrossFit Games and landed 43rd position out of several hundred thousand competitors.