How this moment drove a 9-year-old to national success
TWO years ago, young Ipswich weightlifter Finn Lamond broke down in tears during a training session.
The diminutive boy with a heart of gold had worked tirelessly at his craft for the better part of a year.
But as he watched his older and more experienced training partners win medals and gain state and national success, Finn questioned why he could not do the same.
Laying on the spongy gym floor and wondering aloud when his time would come, Finn's coach Jax Solofa joined him on the ground.
"Finn broke down in tears," Solofa said of the Sacred Heart School student.
"He was laying on the floor crying, and I had to be at his level, so I laid down next to him and he was asking me questions.
"Why can't I lift as heavy as the other kids? Why am I not good enough? Why can't I win medals like everyone else?
"That was pretty heartbreaking for me. Seeing a young person who is broken like that, I had to fight back the tears. It was really hard to swallow.
"I sat there and listened to him. I encouraged him to be patient, and for him to understand that he's the youngest of all the lifters, that his time will come."
Unbeknownst to Finn and Solofa, someone snapped a photo of that moment.
And two years later, that image provided the inspiration for Finn's breakthrough success.
The 11-year-old is now an Australian record holder and U15 national bronze medallist.
The three-year journey of coach and pupil, leading to that moment on the platform at Guildford Grammar School in Perth, is one Solofa holds close to his chest.
"That photo was handed to me two years ago. After Finn's session had finished, I went upstairs and had a few moments just to reflect," Solofa said.
"I cried. I knew he was going to medal.
"I was staring at that photo thinking, 'This is what it's all about'.
"A couple of years later, through his persistence and patience, and turning up three days a week, led to this event and him holding a bronze medal.
"It may only be a bronze medal to some people, but it's more than that to me. It's more than that to him.
"It's the fact he can say, 'Yes, I've done it'."
Listening to Solofa talk about what that moment meant to him, you got a sense it elicited emotions greater than just pride.
He and Finn share a unique bond - they even have their own handshake.
But the pair were not always so close.
"Finn was a very anxious young man when we first started working together," Solofa said.
"He would stand a metre and a half away from me. He was just really unsure of how we would connect.
"For the first six to eight months, that's how it was. Eventually he started to bring it in a bit more.
"Now we hug, we do our handshake . . . that connection has grown so strong, to where he trusts me, and that's what I was after.
"I worked really hard on that."
Weightlifting is an often misunderstood sport, and one few would consider suitable for growing kids.
But at his newly-outfitted Ipswich Weightlifting Club facility in Blacksoil, Solofa prides himself on breaking those barriers, removing the stereotypes, and using weightlifting as a means for more than just physical growth.
"My responsibility as a coach and owner of the club, is to make sure they feel safe and feel like they're valued," Solofa said.
"It can be daunting sometimes picking up a barbell. When Finn started as an eight-year-old, he was shaking every time he picked up a bar.
"Weightlifting has been Finn's vehicle to grow not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
"He's struggled always being a smaller kid in school and at the gym. His growth over the last couple of years is something I pride myself on.
"Now he's competed at a national championships, staring at hundreds of people, and he lifted 50kg above his head. That's 10-15kg more than his bodyweight.
"Finn has really made me super proud."