Having powered his way to New Zealand and Oceania record lifts at the Tokyo Olympics, Cameron McTaggart can rest easily, and with a sense of pride, during his stint in managed isolation on his return home to the North Shore.
His clean and jerk lift of 175kg in the men’s under 81kg class was a personal best and topped the previous national record he set in 2019. Coupled with a new personal best and NZ/Oceania record of 140kg in the snatch of 140kg, this earned Cam 11th place at the rescheduled Games, his first outing as an Olympian.
“I knew I had left it all out on the platform and enjoyed every moment of it. I am proud that all of my hard work and sacrifice was able to be shown on the biggest platform in our sport,” he reflects. “I would've loved to get my last attempts; they were so close but not quite there on the day. I'm sure I'll hit them on the platform very soon.”
The former Kristin pupil received the dream-come-true news of his Olympic call up on the way to training earlier this year. “I got the news on my way into the gym for one of my biggest training sessions. My coach pulled me aside and let me know that I'd been named in the team. I called my whole family then and there and they were beyond proud! It was an awesome experience. I then had an awesome training where I actually hit some personal bests.”
Cam had little personal concern ahead of travelling to Tokyo for the Covid-rescheduled 2020 Games last month. “I wasn't too concerned in regard to Covid, as I had been vaccinated, and the NZ team had the best practices in place. I landed in Japan 48 hours before my competition and stayed in my room for the majority of that time, so I minimised my risk of catching Covid before my competition.”
Life in the Olympic village was one of many new experiences for the 23 year-old. “Village life was great! It was awesome to hang out daily with some of New Zealand’s all-time great Olympians.”
Unable to watch fellow Kiwi athletes compete in other sports at the spectator-less Games, Cam did manage to catch some of the other weightlifting action. “I was only able to watch other weightlifters, including fellow AIMES Alumni Kanah Andrews-Nahu, but it was awesome to get along to support my teammates. I also got to witness Lasha Talakhadze break the world records in the super heavyweight class [265kg in the clean and jerk, and 223kg in the snatch].”
In limbo whilst in MIQ, Cam is keen to return home now his Olympic work is done. “I have a 12 week-old Staffy puppy at home that I'm missing a lot right now, along with my family and girlfriend Rebecca.”
Next, he’ll return to coaching at Functional Strength in Rosedale, while preparing for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. “The Olympics were actually a qualifying competition for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. “Coaching the next generation of weightlifters will take up most of my time ‘til then,” he says. “It’s a great sport for youth to get involved in - it helps with mobility, power, coordination and overall strength.”
Cam won both the 2019 AIMES Sports Scholarship and the 2020 AIMES Emerging Talent Award. How have these wins helped him get to where he is?
“Winning AIMES awards have made it possible for me to compete internationally in what has been a very underfunded sport. And it has connected me to an awesome group of people within the North Shore community.
“To other young people considering applying, I’d say, ‘Just do it!’. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Being a part of this community is truly invaluable.”
Cameron (centre) recieving his 2020 AIMES Emerging Talent Award with sponsors Matthew Bellingham and Mike Atkinson of Bellingham Wallace, and Sue Stanway AIMES Judging Chair and Phil Brosnan, NHC President
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