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Thread: Sarah Robles: Olympian weightlifter lives in poverty

  1. #1
    Colorista
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    Sarah Robles: Olympian weightlifter lives in poverty

    I wasn't sure where to put this, so since it deals with sports (the Olympics), I put it here. This seems supremely unjust...

    "'You can get that sponsorship if you're a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini. But not if you're a girl who's built like a guy,' she says. The 23-year-old from California became the highest ranked weightlifter in the country last year after placing 11th at the world championships, beating out every male and female American on the roster."

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/the-str...ves-in-poverty

    (Also, I want women who are afraid of bulking up their arms to look at her physique.)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    Sarah Robles: Olympian weightlifter lives in poverty

    The article plays up the sexist angle, but really, isn't it about the degraded state of Olympic weightlifting in the U.S.?

    Way down at the bottom of the article it says that Robles' PR is 150 lbs. below the world record. And she's the best the Americans have?

    It seems to me that for her lot to improve, the U.S. would have to develop an entire infrastructure for Oly lifting, the way we have for distance running, gymnastics, wrestling, and some other individual sports.

    Sometimes it's just one benefactor that keeps things going. A while ago, there was one crazy guy -- I think the was a DuPont heir -- who almost single-handedly supported our freestyle wrestling program, keeping the most gifted college wrestlers in international competitions into their late 20s. He was schizophrenic and I think he ended up killing one of the wrestlers, so that may not be the best example. But it shows how desperate some of these sports are to find reliable funding.

  3. #3
    Colorista
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    Sarah Robles: Olympian weightlifter lives in poverty

    I remember that benefactor. I think I heard about it while touring Hearst Castle, so it may have been a Hearst. Anyway, yeah, funding overall is pretty sad. I wish I had the kind of money it would take to benefact (is that a verb?) an Olympian.

    I'm not sure what you mean by developing an infrastructure. (Mind you, I know exactly zero about competition lifting.) I'm assuming that there are competitions designed to meet Olympic qualifications, and as the athlete wins each competition, she gets closer to qualifying for the Olympics. Wouldn't that be the infrastructure that you're referring to? Or is there a difference between the training programs and/or institutions for, say, gymnastics vs. weightlifting?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    Sarah Robles: Olympian weightlifter lives in poverty

    By infrastructure I meant networks of qualified, well-paid coaches, facilities that specialize in Oly lifting, competitions at all levels and ages.

    Take gymnastics, for example. We have a facility here called Parkettes, which is probably one of the top programs in the country. They do kiddy gymnastics classes to generate revenue and to identify the kids with the most potential. They pressure parents of those high-potential into signing on for the full program, which eventually costs a thousand or more per month in coaching fees and travel. It's partially subsidized by the suckers (like us) who bring their kids in for those crappy kid classes, where kids get close to zero instruction and spend most of their time waiting in line behind other kids.

    The teenage kids in the program are often home-schooled because of the demands of the training and the travel. The best ones make it to the Olympics. Almost everyone who sticks it out ends up with a college scholarship.

    Swimming works the same way. Swim clubs start training kids from young ages -- I think my niece and nephew started at 6 or 7 -- and keep them in programs year-round, including high school competition.

    Most of us aren't even aware of gymnastics or swimming outside the Olympics, but both sports have a huge, year-round, coast-to-coast infrastructure supporting them. Probably the same for skiing.

    AFAIK, there's nothing like that for Olympic weightlifting. No network of gyms that parents pay to get their kids into. Very few (if any) high school or college varsity programs. I would imagine that Greco-Roman wrestling, team handball, and synchronized swimming have the same handicaps. They need benefactors to keep them going, since no parent wakes up every day with a fantasy of their kid competing in a sport that may as well not exist in between Olympics.

    Since we moved here to PA I've been amazed at the intensity of youth sports. They don't even have soccer at our kids' middle school, I suspect because the travel programs don't want to lose their top kids, even for three months. Wrestling is another one that took me by surprise. I think they start at 7 or 8. Cheerleading may start even younger.

    When I was growing up I played some soccer, baseball, and basketball. Hardly anyone played competitive football before high school, and I don't think there were any youth wrestling programs. I was vaguely aware that some kids who belonged to country clubs played competitive tennis or golf, or joined swim clubs.

    So seeing this massive infrastructure for youth sports, including in some cases well-paid professional coaches, has been a real eye-opener for me.

    But, as I said, I'm not aware of anything similar for Olympic weightlifting. As many have observed, the guys with the most potential end up in football, or maybe wrestling for the smaller weight classes. And there's always powerlifting. For women, who knows?

  5. #5

    Sarah Robles: Olympian weightlifter lives in poverty

    Lyle had a multi-part series of articles a few years ago: "Why the United States Sucks at Olympic Lifting". I can't link to it right now, but I'm sure a quick google search can locate the series.

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