Local Olympic dream realized
Lawrencian to officiate women’s weightlifting in Beijing
May 16, 2008
Related documentWeightlifting Technical Rules ( .PDF )
But unlike the world's greatest athletes, McVey's interests have little to do with gold or silver. She dreams of refereeing weightlifters on the world's biggest stage.
"I was, first of all, really relieved," McVey, a Lawrence resident, said of getting the call to referee in the Olympics, "and, second of all, really excited. So then I went around e-mailing everybody and telling everybody and calling everybody I know, saying, 'I got picked. I got picked.' So, it was really exciting."
Though McVey has reached the highest levels of her trade, she started in the stands with the fans.
"Weightlifting's a small sport," McVey said. "They need a lot of volunteer help. The very first weightlifting meet I went to, they pulled me out of the audience and taught me how to be a scorekeeper and had me keep score that very first meet. And I've been working at meets ever since."
Brought into the sport by her husband, Loren McVey, Deborah spent the last 20 years working to get where she is today. In 1991, she earned certification to work national competitions and, in 1998, reached the highest level of international certification.
Deborah never was alone in her pursuit. Loren, a weightlifting coach, encouraged her throughout the entire process. But it was Deborah's mentor, Larry Hanneman, who really pushed her to excel, Loren said. Sadly, Deborah and the weightlifting community lost Hanneman to a car accident in 1999, a tragedy about which she still has trouble speaking.
"He (Hanneman) foresaw that someday woman's weightlifting might become an Olympic sport, and there'd be a need for women officials," Deborah said. "He kept mentoring me and encouraging me to get my international Category 2 and then my Category 1 license ... I always think of him when I go referee at a meet."
As Deborah moves into the most prestigious competitions in weightlifting, the pressure also increases, she said. The International Weightlifting Federation's executive board only considers officials who have experience with the pressure of international competition. To meet that requirement, Deborah officiated the last eight world championships, excluding the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
She uses her skills outside of competition also. Loren trains lifters in their garage, which he turned into a workout facility. Deborah, at times, helps the competitive lifters by watching their lifts for errors.
"She'll come in and sit in the middle of the platform in front of me and watch my lift and give me the down signal sometimes," collegiate lifter Vanessa McCoy said.
The Olympics in August will cap a busy summer for Deborah. She's currently helping at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Atlanta, and will officiate the Junior World Weightlifting Championships in Colombia, South America, in June.
Regardless of the where Deborah goes, being named an Olympic referee fulfills a goal 20 years in the making.
"I had no idea it would go to this level," Loren said. "But she's had a lot of really good experiences and seen a lot of the world because of it."
People should know, they don't necessarily have to be good weightlifters, or weightlifters at all, to be involved in weightlifting and weightlifting at its highest levels. Deb has shown that dedication, hard work, and passion can take you anywhere you want to go in life.