Shane Sevcik knew his moment was at hand.
Like most kids, he played make-believe in his backyard, hitting the 3-pointer to win the NBA championship or sinking the 10-foot putt to capture the Masters.
But this? This was the real thing.
The 39-year-old Medford weightlifter, just two years removed from almost losing a foot in a truck accident, seized opportunity and won the gold medal in his age division at the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, on April 29.
The epiphany came to Sevcik in the second of two disciplines, the clean and jerk, after his rival failed to execute his final lift at 172 kilograms, or 379 pounds.
Trailing by 3 kilos (1 kilo is 2.2 pounds) entering that portion of the competition, Sevcik knew the difference between winning the gold medal and settling for the bronze hinged on one lift.
“Every kid has those last-second, do-or-die moments,” said Sevcik, who returned this week from the 10-day games, the world’s largest multi-sport event. “I told myself, ‘This is that moment.’ If I make that lift, it’s a personal record for myself, and I’m the world champion.”
The competition opened with the snatch, and Daniel Nemani, of New Zealand, the eventual silver medalist, lifted 140 kilos to Sevcik’s 137.
With the clean and jerk looming, Sevcik was nervous.
Nemani is a stocky, powerful man, weighing 351 pounds to Sevcik’s 263 and coming in about 4 inches shorter.
That combination bodes well in the clean and jerk, where the bar is lifted to the shoulders, then, after an adjustment period, is jerked skyward.
More body weight means less fatigue while holding the bar at mid-lift.
“I get tired holding that much weight on my shoulders,” said Sevcik.
Also, the shorter the levers, in this case the arms, the easier it is to lift, he said.
“I was a little nervous going into it because they were such big men,” said Sevcik, referring to Nemani and the similarly built Mahdi Nik Ravesh, of Iran, who finished third.
Each of them got three lifts. Nemani opened successfully at 162 kilos, and Sevcik made 161.
In the next round, Nemani got 166, but Sevcik, attempting 167, didn’t lock out an elbow and scratched.
In the final round, Nemani went first and couldn’t complete his try at 172.
Sevcik took note. The time for backyard heroics had come.
There were about 300 people in the crowd, he said, most of them supporting his two opponents.
Sevcik briefly exhorted the audience, then relative calm set in as he approached the bar, bent to hoist it, got it to his shoulders, got his feet and body square, collected himself, then shoved.
His previous best competitive lift was 170 kilos.
It went by the wayside.
“I made the lift, and the roars, it made the hair on the back of your neck stand up a little bit,” he said. “It was the magnitude of the moment.”
As soon as he “stood the clean up,” he said, he knew he had it. “It was a very, very good clean for me. It didn’t wear me out or tax me. I knew I had a shot at making the jerk. When I felt the lockout (in the elbows), I knew right then it was perfect.”
The judges gave him the down signal, and the bar crashed to the floor.
He jumped, threw a few fist pumps and left the stage.
“I was kind of freaking out a little bit,” he said. “I knew that was ballgame right there.”
Sevcik won the clean and jerk by 6 kilos, giving him a 3-kilo win, 309 to 306, over Nemani.
The World Masters Games are held every four years and are modeled after the Olympics.
In most sports, the masters age is 35; some are younger. Athletes don’t need to qualify, hence the popularity. There were more than 30,000 competitors this year.
The crowds are big and the medalists get the same treatment as Olympians: stand on a podium, hear the winner’s national anthem, witness the lowering of the flag.
“It’s a tear-jerker,” said Sevcik. “The emotional feeling of it. The national anthem playing and the flag lowering, it tears you up pretty quick.”
Sevcik had another reason to be appreciative.
His win came almost two years to the day he nearly lost his left foot to an accident when a truck rolled over it and crushed it. He had four surgeries and blood circulation to his foot was restored.
Sevcik was in a cast for four months.
Back in the gym, his workout regimen increased to the present seven days week. He lifts a couple hours each of six days, then gets in cardio and general fitness work on his “off” day.
He won a gold medal in the Pan American Masters in Puerto Rico last June.
This weekend, he’ll compete in the USA Weightlifting National Championships in Chicago. He won’t do as well as in New Zealand, he said, because maxing out takes too much of a toll on the body.
He’s going for the experience.
“To compete twice in two weeks is unheard of,” said Sevcik. “You have to peak your body for an event.”
He’s content now to enjoy the peak he just reached.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.