Official Shaun Clegg - Olympic Weightlifter
Shaun has followed in the foot-steps of big brother Mark and went into weightlifting at a very early age. Shaun has set many British records and in his early teens set the U14’s snatch at 95kg at a body weight of 69kg. Since those early days, Shaun has gone from strength to strength; although he did have some time out from lifting and tried his hand a strongman. However, Shaun’s passion for weightlifting came back and in April 2010 at The British Junior Championships held at Lillishal, Shaun was awarded best lifter for 120kg snatch and 140 clean & jerk a great result for someone who had had a break.
Shaun is currently training under the watchful eye of his big brother Mark, who himself was a Champion Olympic Lifter. Mark, who is Manager of the Olympic Sports Gym, has trained several exceptional athletes including Alex Collier and Tom Martin.
Three new athletes given spots on World Class Programme
THREE new exciting athletes have been selected for the World Class Programme after displaying real progress to national governing body, British Weight Lifting.
Weightlifters Shaun Clegg and Sonny Webster – and IPC powerlifter Paul Efayena – have all been accepted on to the World Class Programme (WCP) after demonstrating that they have the drive and potential to achieve success on the international stage.
The new Olympic weightlifters are:
Shaun Clegg (20, Manchester) coached by Mark Clegg
Sonny Webster (19, Bristol) coached by Andy Sutor
The new IPC powerlifter is:
Paul Efayena (age 35, London) coached by Ben Richens
The three new athletes take the total who currently benefit from UK Sport funding to eight Olympic weightlifters and three IPC powerlifters.
The programme works in partnership with the athletes and their personal coaches to identify barriers to progress, find better solutions within the training process and to create opportunities that can support progress.
Funded athletes receive specialist support services and financial assistance to help them train and prepare more effectively for upcoming competitions, culminating in the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The announcement of three new athletes comes at an exciting time for British Weight Lifting. At an elite level, funded athletes have already secured four medals at World or European level this year and broken several European, Commonwealth and British records.
British Weight Lifting Performance Director, Tommy Yule, said: “I have been very impressed with what I have seen from these athletes. Their performances indicate that they have talent but it is their commitment, effort and their desire to continually push forward that has impressed me the most – essential qualities that underpin progress and are necessary for any athlete on the World Class Programme (WCP).
“The programme is about working in partnership with the lifter and their coach to support their progress towards achieving success on the international stage; ultimately at the Olympic and Paralympic Games and World Championships.
“We are fortunate to have some great people working within our WCP, like our Head Coach, Tamas Feher. With his internationally renowned expertise and experience he is able to work alongside an athlete and their personal coach to help identify the key factors limiting gains in performance and collectively better ways are found to address them.
“In addition to support such as medical, biomechanical and nutritional services from the WCP, athletes also receive an Athlete Personal Award (APA) that contributes towards the cost of training and competition such as travel and equipment."
MUSCLE & FITNESS - September 2011
Shaun Clegg - Olympic Weightlifter
OLYMPIC DREAMS - SHAUN CLEGG WAS THE YOUNGEST AND LIGHTEST OF FOUR BROTHERS GROWING UP IN GREATER MANCHESTER – A PRIME CANDIDATE, YOU MIGHT THINK, FOR SOMEONE WHO MIGHT TURN OUT TO BE A BIT ON THE PUNY SIDE!
Shaun is now 18 years old and at 74 kg still does not cast a particularly big shadow but if there is one thing he is not it is puny. He is, in fact, one of Britain’s best young weightlifters and a serious contender for one of the five qualification slots that have been allocated to British lifters at next summer’s London Olympics. Shaun, who competes in the 77 kg category, has broken more than 50 age-group British records and can snatch 125 kg and clean and jerk 156 kg. He currently holds the under-18 British records for snatch, clean and jerk and overall total and is expected to be one of the leading gold medal contenders at senior level when he makes the transition this year. Shaun is the fourth member of the Clegg family, which we have christened Britain’s most powerful family, to be profiled on these pages. At the head of the Clegg clan is dad Mike, who taught his four boys and one girl the basics of weightlifting shortly after they could walk.
He also introduced weight training to Manchester United’s first team at the turn of the century. Eldest son Mike junior played for Manchester United; second eldest son Mark is a former international weightlifter who now competes as a strongman; middle sibling Steven played for Manchester United’s youth team; daughter Mandy won an age-group British weightlifting title and Shaun, the youngest of the fi ve, is now making his mark in weightlifting. All of them attribute their success to some extent to weightlifting. The speed and power it cultivates helped Mike junior and Steven succeed in football even though they weren’t particularly skilful. But for Shaun weightlifting has not been a means to an end—it is an end in itself. The sport is one of the original Olympic disciplines, as was contested at the fi rst modern Games in Athens in 1896. Women’s weightlifting was added to the programme at Sydney in 2000. Yet many people in Britain don’t actually know what it is.
Some people confuse it with bodybuilding. Others have different misconceptions. “Most people call what we do powerlifting, which in some ways is probably correct because it’s more about power than anything else,” says Shaun. But powerlifting consists of three lifts—squat, deadlift and bench press; Olympic weightlifting consists of two entirely different ones—snatch and clean and jerk. The nation’s ignorance may have something to do with the fact that we’re not very good at it: Britain has only ever won one Olympic gold weightlifting medal – the same as Kazakhstan and Belarus—and that was back in 1896 by a Scotsman called Launceston Elliot, who was the first British Olympic champion. Launceston, who competed in several other sports at the Olympics, won gold in the one-handed lift—a category that was soon discontinued. Besides not understanding what weightlifting is, people also don’t understand what it requires. Yes, you have to be strong, particularly in the lower body, but you also have to be fast, agile and technically excellent. Forget the clichéd images of big, lumbering guys; it’s all about explosive power.
Shaun gave us a demonstration of this when we visited the family’s Olympic Sports Gym in Ashton-under-Lyne—so named because of dad Mike’s love of Olympic lifting. From a standing start he performed a vertical leap about five feet in the air without any difficulty. His speed off the ground was equally evident when he started lifting the bar. Growing up in a gym and successful family meant Shaun was always likely to be drawn to an iron sport “We are a very competitive family,” he says. Mike senior taught him the basics of Olympic lifting at the age of six but he didn’t start properly until he was 12, when Mark took him under his wing. Being a former international weightlifter and big brother makes Mark both coach and mentor. The two are clearly close. “Mark knows me better than anyone,” says Shaun. That bond is partly what inspired Shaun to begin with. Mark taught weightlifting at Shaun’s school and put up lists of personal bests. “I wanted to be top of the list,” says Shaun. “Even though I was 12 and others were 16 I still wanted to be at the top of that list.” It didn’t take him long to get there.
When he was still 12 years old and weighing just 62 kg he was lifting more than boys who were four years older and 20 kg or 30 kg heavier. Then when Mark set up the Dragons Weightlifting Club at the family gym, Shaun joined. It is not the most luxurious weightlifting club in the world. The place where Mark and Shaun do a lot of their lifting is a tiny, dank stone building beneath the main gym known as ‘The Dungeon’. You soon see why: inside there is barely enough room to lift the bar; it is nearly dark and there is certainly no central heating. Shaun, however, wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s beautiful,” he says. “It’s like a Rocky gym. You don’t have to train in the best gyms—you can train somewhere rough and cold.” In the winter, when it freezes, they have trouble opening the door. But being small and featureless has its advantages. “The only things you can focus on are lifting weights and the freezing cold,” says Shaun. From such humble places are Olympic dreams built. The Olympics are still almost a year away but Shaun’s rapid progress has brought them firmly into his sights.
He first represented Great Britain when he was 13, a year to the day after he started serious training, at an under-14 international called the Fulda Cup. But shortly afterwards illness struck. “At 14 I got glandular fever and I was off for three years,” he says. When he recovered he tried his hand at powerlifting and even entered a strongman contest, despite being the youngest competitor by four years. Eventually his passion for weightlifting returned. “An Olympic lift personal best feels much better than a bench press or squat personal best,” he says. “When you get it right it’s an amazing feeling. And it’s a much better sport to watch.” He marked his return in April last year by becoming junior British champion in the 77 kg class courtesy of a 120 kg snatch and a 140 kg clean and jerk. He was also named best lifter of the day. He also represented his country in the under-23 European Championships in Cyprus and the under-20 Tri-Nations in York.
This year started really well: he won the British Junior Championships again, won the Northern Seniors open contest for all age groups, and was again named best lifter then he broke the British under-20 snatch, clean and jerk and overall records at the Fulda Cup when he lifted 125 kg and 157 kg for a total of 282 kg—an amazing day. His next goal was the British Senior Championships, where he was expected to start as the number one-ranked lifter based on his accomplishments so far this year. He attributes his success to “good coaching and lucky genetics”. He adds: “I’m quite short and broad, with a natural ability to build lean muscle.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in his legs. Shaun may not be that big overall but his legs are extremely muscular, which help his lifting speed off the ground. “You have to have strong legs in weightlifting,” he says. “They’re much more important than strong arms. You also need fast twitch muscle fibres.” This year he hopes to become British senior number one in the 77 kg category and if he holds that distinction next year he will have a good chance of becoming an Olympian. Being the host nation entitles Britain to enter three men and two women weightlifters.
Usually the number of entries is determined by world ranking and because Britain has so few men or women ranked in the top 15, only one or two qualify. This has given hope to a whole host of British lifters. It’s likely the best lifters in the most competitive weight categories will go through and one of these is likely to be the 77 kg class so Shaun has a good chance if he establishes himself as number one. “The aim this year is to win the British senior title,” he says. “If I can do that I’m at the top of the food chain in my weight class. Then we’ll have to see what happens.” In the meantime he is training for 12 hours a week, usually in six sessions of two hours each. He used to do 18 hours a week. “It’s a very time consuming sport,” he says. “The lifts are technically very precise. Everything has to be right.” He focuses on three lifts in training: snatches, cleans and jerks. He either does these three lifts or derivatives of them so, for example, a typical session might consist of power cleans, followed by jerks off the rack, clean pulls and back squats. For each exercise he does six or seven warm-up sets followed by three to five working sets. A working set could be a single rep, two reps, three reps or five reps—never any more, except for back squat. That’s a lot of lifting and it’s impossible to max out every session. “We have peaking cycles throughout the year,” he says.
About four weeks before a contest he goes for “something heavy”. He says rest and nutrition are important but he doesn’t have to be particularly strict with his diet. The main thing is ensuring he weighs beneath 77 kg at contests. “I eat little meals but I eat them often,” he says. “I get full easily so I eat about six times a day. I like things like pasta and meat.” He also takes protein shakes and creatine. Although he goes easy on alcohol he has his moments. “I’m 18 so I’m going to have a couple of drinks with the lads,” he says. Besides weightlifting, Shaun enjoys all sports except football. “I used to watch my brothers but I would not sit down to watch a match now,” he says. It seems ironic that the family’s success at Manchester United did not rub off on him. The dungeon could hardly provide a greater contrast with the glamour of Old Trafford but Shaun is perfectly content with his lot and with the prospect of an Olympic Games, and the world and European international meets coming up, he has plenty of motivation. M&F