Ma Jianping Talks Differences In Competing After Taking 3 Decades Off

It’s taken a fair amount of time, but 1984 Chinese Olympian Ma Jianping (Coach Ma) -known to his peers as Coach Ma – came back and conquered the platform. Coach Ma’s last high profile competition was at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. And it wasn’t until last year, with the prodding of his students when Coach Ma returned to the platform and took home second place at the 2016 Masters World Cup.

Since then, he’s gone on to win the 2017 Master World Cup and the Pacific Rim Ocean Championships. Where he was awarded best lifter, and broke three masters world cup records. Ma now 56 years old, competed in the 55-59 year old division for the 77kg class. He finished with a 220kg total, a snatch of 100kg, and a power clean and jerk of 120kg.

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Frequently seeing Ma in action during my tenure at Lindenwood with their Olympic Weightlifting team, I was curious how competition changes after three decades off, so I asked Ma what differed this time from his Olympic debut

Matt Barker: You’ve now competed as an athlete at the highest level in a variety of age groups for weightlifting. What are some of the differences between training at 56 as a Masters level athlete compared to your time with the Chinese national team?

Coach Ma: I started my master competition in 2016, after 30 years of being retired from competitive weightlifting competition. There were a lot of challenges, as I hadn’t done regular weightlifting training for many years. As a master weightlifter, I knew I couldn’t train like younger athletes. I didn’t pay too much attention about how much I could lift.

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I focused a lot of my attention on how I could reduce pain and stay injury free, while staying in good shape. While prepping I didn’t even have a formal “training program” before I went to the gym. My training program was made right after my warm-up, and my body would tell me what I was capable of doing. As I prepared for the Masters World Cup, I had one idea in my mind: my recovery situation, preparation, feeling.

I didn’t need to practice every day, and I didn’t need to do a lot of exercises per session. But in order to get more strength foundation, I always tried to squat, deadlift, and push press once a week, combined with some light snatch and clean & jerk technique training. It was very tough to stay in a high intensity training state due to my body’s recovery being so slow; I had too much pain come back from previous injuries. I overcame a lot, especially when my sciatic nerve got hurt a month before the World Cup. I couldn’t do any heavy training, and I couldn’t even drive my car. I went to see the doctor, got some medicine, took an X-Ray, and got an MRI. After that, I started going to the sauna and the hot tub twice a day in order to fix my pain and get recovery as soon as I can.

Barker: How did you feel standing on the top of the podium at this year’s world cup.

Coach Ma: I was satisfied with my performance at the 2017 Master’s World Cup, as I tried my best. I was excited to win to become a master World champion, the best master weightlifter in my age group, and of course win gold medals and some cash award. Also, I was happy to invited as a guest speaker at the closing ceremony.

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Barker: That’s Awesome! Over the years you’ve worked with a variety of athletes, so in your opinion, what trait is most important for an athlete when pursuing a path dedicated to success?

Coach Ma: In my opinion, every individual is different. The training program must fit the individual athlete, and as a coach we must pay attention on the foundational training for our athletes whether young or old. In other words, don’t rush, everything must be step-by-step, try to stay injury free, and put in efficient and quality work.

Barker: I’ve got to watch you work one-on-one with novice and Olympians, what is the biggest difference when it comes to how you approach a novice lifter versus working with a high level lifter?

Coach Ma: Whenever I work with novice, experienced athletes, and even Olympic level, as a coach we need to know how to identify where the athlete’s weaknesses lie, and try to find a solution on how we can help them to become stronger.

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Barker: What are your plans going forward when it comes to the team at Lindenwood and of course your own training/competing?

Coach Ma: As a coach, I learn a lot from my students and I always want to better our training program at Lindenwood. My team are the current US university national champions. I look forward to seeing more improvements for my team next year. I haven’t set up my personal new plan yet. Now that I’m a Masters World Champion, I would like to stay in a good shape, and I’ll probably compete next year again if my body will allow me to do so. Always overcome and enjoy competing.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Feature image screenshot from @jianpingma Instagram page. 

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