Kelly raising the bar
AUSTRALIA'S Olympic hopefuls are about to feel the full weight of a country's expectation on their shoulders as they put four years of hard work on the line in London.
Damon Kelly has something else on his shoulders.
One of Australia's top weightlifters for more than a decade, Kelly hopes to clean and jerk about 220kg when he takes on the biggest men at the Games in the super heavyweight division.
But the 28-year-old knows even a personal best would not be enough to match it with the likes of dual world champion Behdad Salimi.
The Iranian set a new world record snatch of 214kg at last year's world championships, and backed it up with a 250kg clean and jerk to take gold for the combined total of 464kg.
That compares to Kelly's best of 176kg in the snatch and 222kg in the clean and jerk, good enough to finish ninth in Beijing four years ago and win gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, but not good enough on the biggest stage in the world.
"Realistically I'm not in medal contention. A top 10 would be fantastic," the Queenslander said.
"We're trying to take on full-time athletes, but in Australia the sport is still very much amateur. Everyone is working as well as training.
"It's frustrating ... you can't get the funding without winning medals and you can't win medals without the funding."
Kelly weighs in at 148kg (Salimi comes in at a staggering 180kg plus), and began his weightlifting career at 14 when he tipped the scales at 123kg.
He was involved in a number of sports at his school at the time - cricket, rugby, Aussie rules and athletics - and took up lifting to help his strength and conditioning.
Kelly would have been a fearsome sight at tight-head in the scrum for St Laurence's College in Brisbane, doing all the grunt work while the likes of Cooper Cronk got all the accolades finishing off the work out wide.
"Cooper played in the centres for us, he was fantastic," Kelly said.
"It's no surprise he's gone on to be star."
Cronk may normally be the centre of attention running around for the Melbourne Storm in the NRL but in a couple of weeks, all eyes will be on his former teammate as he tries to raise the bar to new levels in London.