Standing at 5 feet and weighing in at 123 pounds, Ryan Basa looks more like a second-year pharmacy graduate student than an Olympic weightlifter.
Yet, the Los Angeles native of Filipino descent finished in fourth place at the American Open Championships held in Palm Springs, Calif., from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.
“I had an amazing time,” Basa said. “I didn’t realize how big of an event this was until I was there. It was so exciting seeing so many top-notch athletes in one place. It was really an honor competing against possible future Olympians and even meeting past ones.”
Basa, 25, is a second-year pharmacy student at Temple. He got his first taste of Philadelphia as an undergraduate from University of California, Irvine when he visted his sister at Drexel.
“When I was doing my undergrad I would visit her every summer, and I got more familiar with Philly,” Basa said. “I liked the city and I wanted to be in a more urban environment.”
“[Temple] was one of the schools I got in to, and I wanted to get the East Coast feel while I am still relatively young and not settled down or anything,” Basa added.
Although Basa is one of the top Olympic weightlifters in the country, he did not start training for Olympic weightlifting until about three months ago. As an all-around athlete, Basa was originally attracted to CrossFit and worked out at CrossFit Center City. It was at CrossFit Center City that Basa caught the eye of Jim Rutter, head Olympic weightlifting coach of Liberty Barbell Club located at the same premises.
“[Basa] joined the gym to do CrossFit,” Rutter said. “But what happened was, sometimes the [CrossFit] coaches come to me when they see that they have a very good weightlifter, and tell me, ‘Hey come watch this kid lift,’ and that’s what happened with me and [Basa].”
Since then, Rutter has taken over and has coached Basa in the sport of Olympic weightlifting where Basa has already had success in three months partaking in the sport.
Basa said although he’s new to the sport, he wasn’t fully satisfied with his performance at the American Open Championships.
“I can’t complain since it’s my first national competition, but I definitely wish I did better,” Basa said.
Rutter, however, remains optimistic for Basa’s future.
“I think that if [Basa] sticks with this sport, I believe at next year’s National Championships he will medal,” Rutter said.
In his first Olympic weightlifting competition at the Hookgrip Classic held in Philadelphia in September, Basa snatched 57kg (125lbs) and clean and jerked 90kg (198lbs) competing in the 56kg (123lbs) weight class. Since the Hookgrip Classic, Basa improved his numbers to a snatch of 70kg (154lbs) and a clean and jerk of 95kg (209lbs). These numbers qualified Basa for the ‘A’ session at the American Open Championships in Palm Springs, Calif., starting Nov. 30, as well as for next year’s 2013 National Championships held in Cincinnati.
The ‘A’ session is the most prestigious session in the competition, reserved for the best weightlifters in the country. Basa was one of seven weightlifters in the country to qualify for the ‘A’ session in the 56kg (123lbs) weight class.
In addition to Rutter, Basa also credits his roommate and best friend Christopher Liddie in helping him prepare for his Olympic weightlifting competitions.
“[Liddie] has been my workout buddy ever since I moved to Philly and has always pushed me to be better, faster, stronger,” Basa said.
Liddie, also a pharmacy program student at Temple, said Basa applies the same work ethic in the classroom that makes him successful in the weight room.
“[Basa] is one of the most dedicated and passionate people I have met,” Liddie said. “We would spend hours studying molecules and pharmacology to do our very best in school. However when the night has ended, [Basa] would spend those extra hours to make sure he fully understands the difficult concepts.”
“He acted the same way in the gym,” Liddie added. “When the workout is over, he would always suggest one more workout to do before we leave. He is successful because he will never give up. He practices day in and day out but also has time to maintain his leadership roles and excel academically.”
Basa actively participates in Phi Delta Chi and the Pharmacy Leadership Society. He was the chairperson for Operation Heart, a nonprofit seeking to provide care for heart disease patients, as well as the fundraising chair for the American Pharmacist Association. These organizations help the community by doing such things as running health fairs and running blood pressure screenings at senior centers or churches.
“So many people say they do not have time to do certain things,” Basa said. “But I feel like that if you love it you will make the time. So I make the time to do Phi Delta Chi, PLS, APHA, my studies and lifting.”
Though he’s still new to Olympic weightlifting, Basa said he plans to make the sport a long-term commitment.
“My expectations for the future are to get technically more proficient with the lifts and to get stronger allowing me to have a greater total,” Basa said. “I generally want to get better and more consistent with my lifts, especially in a competition setting.”
Samuel Matthews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.