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Online Exclusive - Posted August 30, 2012 2:39 p.m.
photos by Ethan Black
Travis Vlantes trains at WTAMU's athletic weight room.

Satisfaction of Training

Weightlifter strives to qualify for U.S. Nationals Meet, 2016 Olympic Games

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Every four years, the world gets the opportunity to witness the global event we know as the Olympics. Two weeks removed from the Olympiads festivities, and a day removed from the opening ceremonies of London’s Paralympic games, many across Texas, the United States and around the world wake up daily with the hunger and dream of one day representing their country and competing for the gold. Canyon’s Travis Vlantes shares the same goal.

After playing his final year of football at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa and receiving his diploma, Travis knew he had two things to do: select a graduate school and fill the void left from years on the gridiron. Travis moved to Canyon in 2010 after a graduate position became available with West Texas A&M Universities’ Strength and Conditioning Department.

With one goal satisfied, Travis found a sport that may not be familiar to many. Competitive weight lifting is a sport in which two lifts are contested: the snatch and the clean and jerk, both of which involve lifting a barbell from one to two-and-a-half times the competitors’ bodyweight. The highest weight total from each lift is combined to give the competitor the total score judged.

When asked why Travis chose competitive weight lifting, the 24-year-old explains, “I always liked to do cleans [power lifts] when I was training for football. Once college football was over, I knew I wanted to compete in something and I wasn’t quite sure what. What drew me to [competitive weight lifting] is that you need strength, you need speed, you need flexibility. It encompasses all forms of athleticism.”

Fortunately for his athletes at WTAMU, Travis has been able to apply his training and understanding of the human physiology to their workouts. “I have a very strong science background and I find the human body fascinating in terms of its ability to adapt to the different stresses and pressures applied to it. I love working with athletes because they are so motivated to learn and it really inspires me everyday to ask the question, ‘How can I make these athletes better?’ I think the sport benefits me when I’m coaching our athletes’ at WT because those movements are essential for any sport,” continues Travis.

Travis says he started training for competitive weight lifting late in his career. While many of the Olympic competitors begin as early as the age of 8, Travis’ training began in the spring of 2011. However, this hasn’t hindered his success at meets. Of the seven competitions Travis has entered, he has won four including his first meet, and his most recent event in the Rocky Mountain State Games in Colorado.

While all of these wins are prestigious, perhaps his biggest success came at the National University Games in April. There, Travis competed and took sixth place out of his weight class in the nation. At 6 feet, 3.5 inches and 234 pounds, Travis competes in the 105 Kg division and posted a personal best of 270 Kg (595 pounds). And while this is far from Ukrainian weightlifter Oleksiy Torokhtiy’s Olympic best of 412 Kg (908 pounds) this year, it’s an impressive start for a new competitor.

Travis hopes to qualify for the U.S. Men’s National Team this spring. With the successful start he has experienced thus far, he may make it.

“What it comes down to is time. I feel like I’ve made great gains and set a personal best at each meet so I’m taking another step forward. I would say right now if I continue to make the gains I’m making I should be on pace to qualify for nationals in the spring,” Travis says. From there he could be selected to compete in the Pan-American Games and one day the Olympics.

For now, Travis has the responsibility of making sure his athletes are physically prepared for the demands their sports require. When he is not motivating student-athletes in the gym, Travis is balancing his teaching responsibilities and six hours of daily training, all while managing to find a little time to watch a movie or do a little reading.

“You find that when you have a hobby that is so demanding of your time like that of weight lifting, your other hobbies tend to cater to it. I’m kind of a movie buff. I also love to read books, magazines and strength blogs. I’m all about that information sharing and the trading of knowledge between people.”

In addition to his services at WTAMU, Travis spends his Saturdays assisting one of the weight lifting coaches at San Jacinto with some of the community’s local high school athletes. This not only allows Travis to get pointers from another coach, but it also enables the teenagers that attend these workouts to mature and gain a better understanding of safe lifting techniques.

Regardless of the final outcome this coming spring at the U.S. Nationals Meet, Travis is determined to continue to progress and represent his community. “The greatest satisfaction I gain is the challenge of it. It’s the little things that keep you going, the little victories that take you another step forward.”

by Ethan Black

Ethan is currently finishing his graduate degree in Sport Management from West Texas A&M University, with an emphasis on Sport Sociology and Marketing. In his spare time, he enjoys playing sports and spending time with family and friends.
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