Weightlifters find strength in the scream

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Chinese super heavyweight Zhou Lulu shouts ''relax'' to calm her nerves. Iran's Saeid Mohammadpour hisses like a snake.

The variety of grunts and screams that weightlifters let out before their battle with gravity isn't just for show.

It's to ''let the weights know you're coming'' in the mental buildup before a big lift, said Joe Micela, coach of U.S. weightlifter Sarah Robles.

''We call it a trigger point,'' Micela said. ''Letting out that yell, is preparing my mind and my body to go do this thing.''

The here-I-come shout is a common feature in strength sports such as hammer throw, shot put and javelin.

In weightlifting it is part of the acoustic drama that doesn't quite come through on TV, like the clang of the barbell slamming onto the platform, the suspenseful silence when a nervous lifter adjusts a grip on the bar or the roar that fills the arena when an athlete lifts three times his body weight.

''I've been to many world championships and two Olympics, but I think the enthusiasm here is incredible, the way they try to boost the competitors,'' said Benny Johansson, a technical controller at the weightlifting competition in London.

Any lifter who offers an adrenaline-fueled yell from the platform can expect a raucous reply from the spectators, even if they don't always understand what the lifter just shouted at them.

The audience roared back in delight when Zhou, who set a world record total of 333 kilograms Sunday, unleashed what sounded like a war cry before each lift.

After receiving her gold medal, Zhou explained she was actually not telling herself to get fired up, but to calm down. ''So I can lift the weights relaxed,'' she said.

Possibly the oddest sound produced in the ExCeL center was Christin Ulrich's high-pitched howl as she stepped onto the platform in the women's 58-kilogram class. It sounded like part tropical bird, part squealing brakes.

For many, shouting is part of the pre-lift ritual.

India's Kumar Ravi Katulu bowed to the crowd and made two emphatic foot slaps - one right, one left - before releasing a sharp yell.

Venezuela's Junior Antonio Rivero Sanchez marched back and forth behind the platform, not unlike the Queen's Foot Guards, and let out a quick guttural scream before his try.

Making noise isn't for everyone, though.

Despite receiving the loudest cheer for any lifter in the weightlifting arena, 18-year-old Briton Zoe Smith remained silent before her lifts.

''I can't do all of this screaming business,'' she said. ''I would put myself off to be honest. I feel silly when I make loud noises.''

There is also a risk involved with coming out on the stage screaming like Tarzan.

''Sometimes you see someone scream their head off but they don't lift it,'' Micela said. ''And then you wonder, what happened to that big yell of yours?''


AP Sports Writer Luke Meredith contributed to this report.

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