Waiting may have been the hardest part of Canadian weightlifter Boady Santavy’s night on Saturday.
Santavy sat first overall in the 96-kilogram weight class after he completed a 208-kilo clean and jerk on his final attempt for a combined weight of 386. But his three toughest competitors had yet to take their turns, so he sat in the warm-up area watching them push him down the leaderboard, missing the podium by one kilogram.
“It was stressful because I know I’ve done a lot more weight than I did here,” said the 24-year-old Santavy. “But there is really no excuses because I trained as hard as I could and I really gave it my all and did the best lifts I could for the day.”
Santavy praised all three medalists after the competition, whom he described as his friends.
Qatar’s Fares El-Bakh set an Olympic record with a clean and jerk of 225 kilograms on his second attempt to clinch gold with a total of 402. He then attempted a world record of 232 kilograms with his third clean and jerk try, but dropped the bar.
Venezuela’s Keydomar Vallenilla Sanchez and Georgia’s Anton Pliesnoi took silver and bronze as both lifted a total of 387 kilograms.
“I’m still kind of thinking about everything right now, even though I really shouldn’t be,” said Santavy, a native of Sarnia, Ont. “But that’s the way she goes and I’ll be training for the next three years for the Paris Olympics and better results, hopefully.”
Santavy’s made his opening snatch of 173 kilograms, but he dropped his second attempt of 177 kilos, shaking his long curly brown hair — kept out of his eyes with a Maple Leaf bandana — in frustration.
Dalas Santavy, Boady’s coach and father, said that issues with his son’s stomach may have been a factor.
“I know he was feeling a little bit sick during the snatch and clean and jerk and I really had to draw it out of him to get that performance, even as well as he did,” said the elder Santavy.
El-Bakh, Vallenilla Sanchez, and Pliesnoi all made the 177 mark, so Santavy upped the weight on his third snatch attempt by a kilogram.
Santavy flexed, shouted, and pounded on his chest after completing the 178-kilogram lift, as he became the first Canadian man to ever lead after the snatch portion of the event.
“I’m going to take a few week’s break, rest my mind and certainly give my body a rest and get back out and train hard,” said Santavy. “I’ve got a busy three years ahead of me.”
Sitting second after his first clean and jerk, Santavy stepped on to the platform, biting his lower lip as he brought the 205-kilogram bar to his shoulders, but dropped it before he could clear it over his head.
Pliesnoi then made a 206-kilo lift to move to the top of the standings with a total of 383, sliding Santavy down to third at five kilos back.
His dad shouted “pull it hard” as Santavy put his hands on the bar for a 208-kilo lift, his third and final attempt in the clean and jerk. He made the lift cleanly and then slapped the platform and kissed it before striding over to his father for a hug.
That lift put Santavy in first again, but meant he had to sit and watch the rest of the field complete their attempts. His grandfather Bob Santavy had competed in the same event at the 1976 Montreal Games but passed away in 2018.
“I think if he was here to see it he’d be pretty pumped up still,” Boady said of his grandfather. “It’s higher than he did, the weights were more, and I’m sure he’d be happy to see me and my dad here together, crushing it.”
Vallenilla Sanchez topped Santavy with a 210 kilo lift in the very next attempt to take over the top spot, a total of 387 kilograms to the Canadian’s 386.
Pliesnoi’s third attempt of 210 kilograms put the Georgian into a tie for first with Vallenilla Sanchez and slid Santavy into the bronze position. Vallenilla Sanchez’s miss on his third attempt of 216 kilograms, confirmed by a jury review, kept the top three intact.
That brought El-Bakh to the platform for his first clean and jerk attempt of 217 kilos, which clinched gold.
Santavy pleaded guilty to his role in a hit-and-run in 2018 and spent 90 days in jail for the provincial offence. In addition to his jail term, he was on probation for a year after his release and was prohibited from driving for a year.
“Obviously we can’t change the past, so I’m just focused on being the best me in the future,” said Santavy on Saturday. “I’m now an Olympian and I hope to inspire lots of kids and lots of people to get into sport and do good things.
“I’m proud to represent my country Canada on the biggest stage on planet Earth.”
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