It’s been a challenging 12 months for Australian weightlifting legend Damon Kelly, but the goal of competing in front of family and friends on the Gold Coast next year is keeping the 2010 gold medallist focussed.
Kelly has been named in a shadow weightlifting squad for next year’s Commonwealth Games, and will now set up about meeting the selection criteria.
“I was fortunate enough to compete at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, which was an awesome experience,” Kelly said this week.
“So when the Gold Coast was announced to host it made me super keen to want to experience that feeling again.
“This time it will be even closer to home. It will give a chance for my family and friends to watch me compete at the highest level.”
Missing qualification for the Rio Olympics was a major blow for the Queenslander, who turned 33 in December, and he admits there were times he considered drawing the curtain on his career.
“You always have doubts,” he said.
“It was a tough time after missing out on Rio, but the carrot of the Gold Coast Games kept me going along.
“Weightlifting takes up a lot of time which can be hard with a young family but then (wife) Sharon and the boys keep me pushing towards the Gold Coast.”
Adding to the anguish and disappointment for Kelly has been the long list of positive drug tests since uncovered from weightlifters at the two Olympics he attended, Beijing and London.
But Kelly is taking a philosophical approach.
“It's sad and happy at the same time,” he said.
“It's great that they are catching the athletes who are using the banned substances, but sad that so many are getting caught. I still think more needs to be done to fight doping.
“There are rules and regulations in place to stop doping but they aren't enforced at an international level. They need to stick the rules and make sure all countries follow them and are held accountable for their actions.”
Kelly has the full set of Commonwealth Games medals - gold from Delhi, silver from Melbourne in 2006, and bronze from Glasgow in 2014.
A lot has changed for Kelly in recent years. He now has two young boys, and has just recently started full time work with a Queensland builder which, while helping pay the bills, is also creating new training and competition challenges.
“It's going to take some time to adjust to a new work and training timetable,” Kelly said.
“I hope to do that soon and build up to the National Championships and then Commonwealth Championships, ultimately leading to the selection trials and, if all goes to plans, the Commonwealth Games in April 2018.”
If the Gold Coast is the finale for Kelly, he will leave knowing the future of the sport in Australia is in good hands. Several exciting young lifters will be stepping up ahead of Tokyo 2020, and the growing partnership between Cross Fit and weightlifting is unearthing new talent.
Kelly is confident the Commonwealth Championships in Brisbane in September, and next year’s Commonwealth Games, will further add to the attraction of the sport he has devoted much of his life to.
“Weightlifting is definitely a growing sport in Australia,” he said.
“There is just something about it that people will always enjoy. So I think it will always be around. We just need to let more people know about the wonderful sport that it is.
“The message is slowly getting out there as a lot more kids and schools are getting involved in weightlifting. They are discovering what a wonderful sport it is and the many great benefits from participating in weightlifting.”
The Commonwealth Games shadow squad includes Australia’s two Rio Olympians, Simplice Ribouem and Tia-Clair Toomey, and previous Commonwealth Games medallists Erika Ropati-Frost, Seen Lee and Francois Etoundi.