Interview with Sol Anette Waaler

Norway's Sol Anette Waaler took some time with Velaasa Athletics to discuss her recent European Championship gold and the origins of her Olympic weightlifting career. You can support her efforts by saving with her code sol15 at checkout and rooting for her on her Instagram.

Can you describe the moment you realized you had won gold at the European Championships? What was going through your mind?

It was a fantastic feeling! I was really happy and felt relieved at the same time. I reached one of my dreams! During competition, I don’t look at the scoreboard. That means I didn’t know it would be a gold medal at first. When I walked in for my last snatch, I heard the speaker announcing, “For the gold medal, here she comes”. Then I knew I had to remain “calm and powerful,” – which also is my favorite cue. I knew I could make the lift, I had done it many times before. I focused on what I could control, did my normal pre-lifting routine, and suddenly I had the bar over my head. I thought the feeling would be just happy and realized I was going to cry. Thankful for all the support I have gotten the last years with a lot of injuries and with no big team around me. I really wished my coach was there, I just wanted to hug him really tight! Unfortunately, the federation did not allow us to bring our preferred coach. But when I looked at my phone he had texted me with a lot of crying emojis, so he probably had the same feeling at home.

How do you prepare mentally and physically for a competition as significant as the European Championships?

For me the preparation mentally started in October last year with making a countdown to the championship on my phone, with a photo of me lifting at a big stage. Then I could see the countdown and have my eyes and mind at the goal every day. Right after the World Championship, I knew I could have a chance at a medal at the Europeans, and wanted to prepare my mind to believe that. Physically, we have done a lot of weightlifting movement, and I have moved my lifts up almost every week from October. I PR’ed my snatch and clean and jerk at this bodyweight the week prior to the European Championship, so I knew I was in good shape.

Winning at a European Championship is a monumental achievement. How do you plan to build on this success heading into the next Paris 2024 Olympic qualification event?

I’m unfortunately in a bodyweight category that will not lift at the Olympics.

Can you share a bit about your journey in Olympic weightlifting? How did you get started, and what motivated you to pursue it at the competitive level?

I was pushed into a CrossFit class by one of my best friends 9 years ago. She was living right beside a box and said we should go and try out. I constantly answered no because I had heard about CrossFit, and I did not want to be that tired. She asked me every week for four weeks in a row, and since I’m stubborn, she went for a drop-in session without me. She kept on asking and pushing, and at last, I said yes. I loved it from the first time. My first CrossFit box had a cooperation with a weightlifting club, and if you wanted to learn weightlifting properly you were sent there. So, I did a course for beginners and made the qualification for the Nationals at my first meeting. I snatched 40kg and clean and jerked 61kg. I did CrossFit and weightlifting side by side until 2017 and competed at a high national level. My box qualified a team for the CrossFit Regionals in 2017. We were the first Norwegian team at the Regionals ever. We had a lot of fun and we got into the competition thinking we hopefully wouldn’t be in last place for all events. Ended up being in fourth and the first Norwegian team to qualify for the CrossFit Games. After the Games I returned to only doing weightlifting and set a goal of going to the European Championship. This decision came because I wanted to see how strong it was possible for me to get. I saw that competing at a high level in CrossFit required a lot of cardio, which is not a good combination with top-level weightlifting. So, I didn’t train CrossFit for a year. The CrossFit Open 2018 came, and one of my old teammates asked if I would join – just in case there would be a weightlifting event where the box team needed my score. Long story short – I ended up being the second-best female at the box, and we went one more time to the Regionals. This time we won (!) and went to the Games for the second time. After this I went back to weightlifting and have been training that ever since. My biggest motivation is progress, and I got that in both CrossFit and weightlifting. I love to learn new things and to see what my body is capable of.

What does a typical training day look like for you, especially when preparing for a major competition?

I get up around 07.30, then I either prepare for training or work and eat breakfast. Usually, my morning session consists of a squat exercise, a snatch variant and exercises for injury prevention. After training I eat lunch and then work for some hours until the next session. Session 2 is clean and jerk, pulls and maybe some squats. Around 7 I´m home for dinner and rest.

I’m trying to use more time on recovery and have a restitution mat I have to use twice or three times a day. This is called “BEMER” and is proven to boost recovery. This makes me lie down and relax. To improve results, it is important to focus on the things that happen outside training as well as the sessions itself.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in an athlete's performance. Could you give us an insight into your diet and how it changes as you prepare for a competition?

Usually, before a competition, I focus on fueling my body at the right time before training so I’m sure my energy levels are at top during the sessions. I have had a nutrition coach for some years, so we figured out the amount of macros I need to eat to be fueling for progress without gaining weight in the pre-competition period. In the upcoming months I will try to gain leg strength, meaning I need more food to make sure this is possible. So, I will say my nutrition is changing based on my development focus. The main thing is to make sure the protein intake is high enough. It is not easy to gain strength without gaining any weight, so in the upcoming period, I will need to gain some weight to make sure my strength goes up as well.

Who has been the most significant influence on your career in weightlifting, and why?

Definitely my coach. He is the one who made me believe in myself as an athlete in weightlifting and the reason I started competing on a national and international stage. I remember he asked me if I wanted to do weightlifting besides CrossFit and what my goal with weightlifting was. I answered that it would be a dream to snatch 70 kg, and he said, “If you train weightlifting with me you will do it in one year”. I didn’t believe him, but I said I could try it for one year. My snatch was 70kg long before the year was done. And now it’s been 8 years. He has always been pragmatic in changing the training depending on my goals. When I was going to the Games, we did a lot of barbell cycling and focused on how I could be prepared as best as possible. When my goals changed to only weightlifting, we sat down and discussed how we could do that in the best possible way. I love that he is adaptive to my goals and that he supports me either way.

How do you handle the pressure and expectations that come with competing at an international level?

I think the pressure and expectations are both good and a challenge. My team at home is focusing on the process, and it is important to enjoy every moment, and the results will come. My mindset in every competition is that I will have to do my best that day. It’s not important that it is more or less than I did in training, but it will have to be my very best that particular day. I spent a lot of time visualizing the whole competition. Closing my eyes and feeling how my warmup will be, how I walk on stage, my breathing, my pre-lift routine, and how the lifts should feel. In the last few years, I have been working hard on my mental game in competition, and I think I have found my way to do things now. I remember my first attempt at my first European, my arms were shaking when I was grabbing the bar. I got really stressed and missed the snatch. After that I decided to work on trusting my strength and focusing on my lifting tasks instead of the nervosity.

Can you discuss a challenge or setback you've faced in your weightlifting career and how you overcame it?

I had my best competition in the -59kg in 2019, and after that, I had a major setback with overtraining, a shoulder and knee injury, and I wondered about stopping weightlifting. We tried to work around every injury, but as soon as one thing was fixed, a new challenge came up. My motivation was low at some points. We found a new medical team and started working closely with a chiropractor and a physio and changed my training schedule. I think the biggest overcome was that I started tracking progress in different ways. If I could do more in one particular exercise, it was progress, if I could walk up a stair without any pain, it was progress. I tried to forget that I was not at the same numbers in snatch and clean and jerk as before and measure progress every other way I could. The results started coming after the covid, and this season, I’m stronger than ever, and I’m looking forward to progressing even more the next year.

How are you preparing for future competitions?

As I mentioned, my weight category is not in the Olympics, so I’m working hard toward this year's Worlds, which will happen late in 2024. Now I have a good period of time for training and making sure to do all the rehab to prevent injuries.


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