Harrison Maurus “is more than ready” to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, and for good reason.
The weightlifter from Auburn was ready to complete his dream of competing in the Olympics last year, but the Games were postponed for a year because of the coronavirus.
“It’s still a little surreal, but we’re getting close enough that it’s definitely a fact now and I’m just super happy to be given a chance to represent the U.S. at the Olympics,” said Maurus, 21, who competes in the 81-kilogram (178.6 pounds) weight class.
The wait, Maurus said, was worth it.
“It’s a culmination of nearly 10 years of hard work,” Maurus said. “It’s the crown jewel of my career.”
That might be, but there are plenty of jewels on his résumé. It has been an amazing journey the past 10 years, and it all started when at age 11 he decided to quit his sport of choice at that time: gymnastics.
Maurus has said that because he wasn’t very naturally flexible, he knew he would never be a great gymnast. His first gymnastics coach, Kevin Simons, suggested a strength and conditioning program while Maurus was deciding what to do next.
Maurus started lifting weights — squatting, deadlifting and bench-pressing — and in this sport he was gifted. At 12, he qualified for the U.S. Powerlifting nationals.
Five years later, in 2017, he won two bronze medals at the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships, the first medals by a U.S. man in the world championships in 20 years.
Competing in the 77-kilogram weight class, Maurus won a bronze medal in the clean-and-jerk by lifting 193 kilograms (425.5 pounds) and also won a bronze medal in the combined (clean-and-jerk and the snatch) with a total of 348 kilograms.
Maurus, who was 17 and going to Auburn Riverside High School, had become America’s next great hope in the sport. The years in gymnastics were definitely a help.
“General body awareness, discipline and being used to spending that much time in the gym were all things that I took away from it, and I think were super beneficial,” he said.
Maurus continued to excel, winning a gold medal in the clean-and-jerk in the 2018 World Junior Championships and a bronze medal in the 2019 Pan Am Games — the 100th medal in U.S. weightlifting history at those Games — in the combined.
It was a year of transition for Maurus in 2019, as he quit working with Simons, who followed Maurus from gymnastics to weightlifting and was the only weightlifting coach he’d ever had. Later that year, he moved to an Atlanta suburb to start training under coach Spencer Arnold at Power & Grace performance.
“It’s been good for me to work under a different coach,” Maurus said. “Sometimes (different coaches) see things a little differently, and I think it’s been a good transition and I think I am a better technician and athlete for it.”
Maurus was looking to prove that at the Olympics in 2020, having earned a spot via the sport’s qualification system (results from a series of events and not a single trials competition), and then COVID-19 hit.
“It’s an event you wait every four years for and to have it taken away at the last second was a little rough,” Maurus said.
He channeled his energy into training, working six days and about 25 hours a week. Not that he minds.
“I definitely enjoy training,” said Maurus, who holds the American record in his 81-kilogram weight class in the clean-and-jerk (200 kilograms — 440.9 pounds) and the combined (357 kilograms — 787 pounds). “Six minutes might be the total time you are on a platform (while competing), so you have to like training.”
Maurus completed just two of six lifts (three each in the snatch and the clean-and-jerk) at the Pan Am Games last month in the Dominican Republic, but did well enough to earn a bronze medal in the combined.
He now has a medal in his sights at the Tokyo Olympic Games, which begin July 23.
“I’d love to get one and I think everyone’s goal is to get a medal,” Maurus said. “If we can bring home multiple medals for the U.S. that would be incredible.”
Maurus said he is looking forward to taking “a couple of months to decompress” after the Olympics. He said returning to college is a priority (he started at the University of Washington), but he is laser-focused at the moment on the big competition ahead.
“I am so ready to go,” he said. “I was ready to go last year but having to wait longer makes it more enticing and sweeter.”