Connections: Shane Hamman
More Than Medals
Shane Hamman is a two-time Olympian (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004), nine-time U.S. national weightlifting champion (1997-2005), and holds all the American records in the 105+ kg. weight class — including a 435 lb. snatch and a clean and jerk of 523 lbs. Hamman is also a three-time national champion in powerlifting and still holds the International Powerlifting Federation world record in the squat at 1,008 lbs. Hamman lives in Tulsa, Okla., with his wife, Cristin, and daughter and son, Ember and Titus. He works as an engineer for Halliburton oil field services. Hamman is an in-demand speaker and regularly shares his story of God’s faithfulness in his life. Hamman spoke recently with Scott Harrup managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Evangel: Looking back on your participation in two Olympic Games, what was the biggest personal takeaway for you?
Hamman: It’s amazing to me that it happened and that I was able to get as far as I did. It is definitely a gift from God. You dream of going to the Olympics, but when God allowed that dream to come true I felt really blessed. He let me have that experience in my life to share with other people and with my family.
But during the Olympic Games, honestly, it was a very stressful time. I had to stay focused on my training to be ready for competition. As a super heavyweight, I always competed at the end of the games. So I couldn’t allow myself the luxury of focusing on everything else that was going on. I had to stay focused on what I needed to do.
E: Your transition from powerlifting to Olympic competition required a radical change in your technique. How did that experience shape your outlook on life?
H: The biggest lesson I learned was patience. I’ve always been the kind of person who wants it now. Going from powerlifting to Olympic lifts, I had to really take my time. It wasn’t easy. My coach, Dragomir Cioroslan, had me lifting a broomstick, then an empty bar.
I had to slowly build up again. If I had tried to move into heavy lifts too quickly, I would have developed bad habits. Patience and lower weights are essential. If you skip that step, you’ll develop bad habits you can carry with you throughout your career.
E: Who have been your role models in weight lifting and strength training?
H: Paul Anderson is my greatest role model. He won an Olympic gold medal in weight lifting in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia. He was a really strong Christian as well, and he used his strength to minister to young men at the Paul Anderson Youth Home he and his wife established and led for many years. I read everything I could about him.
I never had the privilege of meeting him, but I’ve spoken with his widow a couple of times. In fact, God used her to encourage me before a competition. I had been volunteering with my church’s youth group, and I pulled a muscle in a volleyball game a couple weeks before I was supposed to compete internationally in Guatemala.
I kept training, but my leg just wouldn’t heal up. I was at work, and I got a phone call from Glenda Anderson. “I was praying this morning,” she said, “and God told me to call you and tell you everything is going to be all right.” I was shocked. I had never met her, and somehow she found my number to give me that message. And God answered that prayer.
When Paul Anderson died in 1994, illness had taken so much of his physical strength. But his faith never weakened. He just continued working with the kids up until he died, preaching to them and staying strong in his faith.
E: Who are some other Christian role models for you?
H: My parents, Joe and Carol Hamman, are both very strong, outspoken Christians. They taught me and helped make me who I am. They’re my greatest role models for living my faith. They still speak such amazing things into my life.
E: You had already begun speaking to young people during your Olympic career. What do those speaking opportunities look like today?
H: I work in the oil field on a week on/week off schedule. So I use my off time to give character-building talks in public schools. I take every opportunity I can to speak to churches and youth groups as well. In fact, I use copies of my 2004 Pentecostal Evangel interview to introduce myself to pastors. But working full time and supporting my family leaves less time than I used to have.
E: What do you consider to be the greatest life challenges for followers of Christ?
H: When I talk to young people, peer pressure always comes up. And that’s true regardless of who you are. On my job, my goal is to be a light among a crowd that can include some pretty rough guys.
I’m not going to get in anyone’s face about my faith, but I am living my life. Out here I’ve had a lot of opportunities to demonstrate what loving Jesus is all about, and those opportunities come through personal relationships. People will ask questions, and then I get to tell them about my real story. This is a mission field. No matter who you are, or your age, you have to stay strong in your faith no matter what’s going on around you.
E: How would you describe your transition from international athlete to dedicated husband and father?
H: Getting married was kind of a shock after being single and doing what I wanted to do and focusing on lifting. That was my life. So the transition was hard at times. But I just love — absolutely love — having a family. Everything I used to do was for me, but now everything I do is for my family. I would do anything to care for them.
E: What contributions to your family life do you bring from your years of competition?
H: Competition helped me learn to strive for goals until I achieved them. Now that translates into goals to provide for my family and help my children connect with Jesus. I learned in my lifting career to do whatever it took to maintain focus and commitment to do my best. Now I want to do the same thing for Cristin, Ember and Titus.
E: When you meet with young people and you can see that God has gifted them with ability, what kind of advice do you offer?
H: The first thing I always tell them is to put God first in their lives, and then to dedicate their gifts to God. Early in my life, when I discovered my gift of weightlifting, I sat down and I dedicated that to God. “God,” I prayed, “I give You this gift, and I want You to do whatever You want with it to reach as many people as possible for You.”
He was the One who took me to the top, and it came from that commitment to Him. On the other hand, if you don’t use your gifts to honor God, He can take them away as fast as He gave them to you.
E: Will you have any involvement with the 2012 London Games?
H: I’m an announcer for NBC. We work from New York and comment on the weightlifting events live. I joined the media team for the Beijing Olympics, and I’m looking forward to the London Games. It’s great to be involved with weightlifting, see everything that happens, and get to talk about it.
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