Richie Patterson sets the bar for NZ weightlifting
Weightlifter Richie Patterson returned home from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games with a gold medal, a flag-bearing honour and a wife, so GC2018 has a hard act to follow.
During his 20-year career in the sport, Patterson has broken over 50 New Zealand records – many of them his own - across three weight categories.
In what will be his fourth and final Commonwealth Games, Patterson is now coaching athletes trying to beat his own records.
The first athlete he took on, Cameron McTaggart, has been announced in the team alongside Patterson. McTaggart will compete in the 77kg weight category, and Patterson in the 85kg category.
“Before I held the records I was always inspired to break them because that means you’re the best in history,” Patterson told GC2018.com.
“That initial drive was to be the best, then it gets harder obviously, next year I’m turning 35 at the end of April so I’m no longer on an upward trajectory so if I can even get close to my records now I’m pretty satisfied with those.
“I’ve established [the records] and now I’m also coaching athletes to try and beat my records, which is really cool as well.
“I find it satisfying. It’s exciting to see them go, I’m not upset when people break my records, especially if I’m coaching them.
“I really get a sense of achievement out of watching others do really well and just watch them progress and the hard work that goes into them succeeding.”
Patterson and McTaggart are scheduled to compete on the same day at GC2018, so he won’t be able to take on the athlete-coach role on the Gold Coast.
But Patterson is relishing the opportunity to share his experience and learnings with the future stars of the sport.
“I coach in retrospect. I look back on my athletic career and go look what worked, what didn’t work, what have I learned along the way and give this to them at an earlier stage of their career so they can benefit from my learnings which has been pretty cool,” he said.
“Just making sure they’re enjoying themselves, that they’re balanced, they’re getting enough recovery, they’re keeping strong support networks within their family and that sort of thing.”
Balance is a lesson Patterson has learned throughout his career. As well as coaching, he owns a gym, is on the board of New Zealand Olympic Weightlifting and has a two-year-old son with his wife – and weightlifting champion in her own right – Phillipa.
It’s a lot to carry, but Patterson believes that having a range of things in his life has helped him remain at the top of the sport for so long, and he hopes to teach the athletes he coaches the same.
“I haven’t had a whole heap of injuries,” he said.
“I’ve looked after myself really well and a big part of my training is injury prevention and just finding balance, and that’s what allowed me to keep motivated.”
It hasn’t always been that way. Patterson started weightlifting after seeing a demonstration at school. He was still playing rugby and cricket until he was 18, when he decided to focus all of his attention on weightlifting.
At 22, he made his Commonwealth Games debut at the Melbourne 2006 Games and placed fourth.
In Delhi four years later, Patterson was determined to lift enough for a place on the podium. He made it there, but not in the position he was hoping for.
“In 2010, I was solely focused on trying to win a gold medal and I won silver which was pretty disheartening. I took a step back and realised there’s more to life than just becoming single-handedly focused on one specific thing,” he said.
“I started a business, started coaching others, being a little more holistic and was enjoying what I was doing and being balanced. That gave me a second wind to keep training and find new ways of enjoying it and things like that, and that’s when I started to get a really good result.
“That’s what’s allowed me to keep going from 2010 to now.”
Patterson reached the top of the podium in Glasgow in 2014, where he was also awarded the honour of flagbearer at the Closing Ceremony.
Two days after he competed, he married weightlifting teammate Phillipa Hales, who had made her Commonwealth Games debut in the women’s 53kg event.
The team features Commonwealth Games debutants as well as international competition veterans.
“We’ve got a good mix of experienced lifters, a number on their third Commonwealth Games, a few on their second, then we’ve got a young group that are doing their first Commonwealth Games so it’s a good balance of excitement and then maturity as well,” said Patterson.
“We’ve got some really good medal prospects as well so it’ll be an interesting time come April.”