SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - One sign of a great coach is how well his team performs in their absence.
“Team Savannah” pulled together and reached many of its goals at a recent world weightlifting championship after an injury forced Coach Michael Cohen to leave the competition.
Cohen returned from the 2019 Masters World Weightlifting Championships with an intense pain matched only by the pride in how his team had persevered after an injury forced him to leave.
“Everybody buys into the system, and it’s a family and we take care of each other. We’ve always done that; the good times and the bad times,” Cohen said.
The competitor and United States coach was making his final lift in Montreal two weekends ago - a gold medal attempt - when he and the weight went crashing to the ground.
“They rolled me over and I could see the damage, and it was like, ‘that’s not my leg. It doesn’t look real.'"
“You make sure you’re there. That’s pretty much all you can do at that point is hold his hand and say, it’s going to be OK,' and you hope that it is,” Sheryl Cohen said.
Cohen was flown back to Savannah for emergency surgery after his patella tendon tore away from the bone in is right leg. His wife, Sheryl, went into coach mode, teaming with Savannah Assistant Coach Kathy Cromwell to guide more than a dozen national lifters through four more days of competition. The pair led the U.S. Women’s team to a gold medal finish.
“I just kind of went into survival mode and did what needed to be done,” she said.
“We tag teamed, One of us watched the board, one of would watch the lifter, and you kind of have to get to know the lifter that you’re working with and figure out the strategy they need to win, need to place; and we did that really well together.”
“Everybody’s thoughts and prayers were with him, but when it became showtime, everybody was on the platform. They showed up. They were ready to put in a good performance.”
That included the two stand-in coaches, who were both also competing at their first world championships and had both dropped three weight classes for the event.
Sheryl earned a silver medal and Kathy placed fourth in a competition weight class, and both won even greater respect as coaches from their coach.
“I am very, very happy about the fact that my wife and Kathy just whatever needed to be done, took care of it, and we did real well. We brought home a lot of medals and are very, very happy with the results,” Cohen said.
Of the eight Savannah lifters at the Masters Worlds, five earned medals, including Cohen, whose son accepted his silver on his behalf - just something else that got taken care of after his injury.
“I think in some regard, it might have pushed them a little harder to really want to perform well to show him that even in his absence, that he trained them to do what they needed to do to win.”
“I think we wanted to prove to everyone else that we could do it as well.”
Cohen’s injury, a quadriceps rupture, will require months of recovery and physical therapy.