Olympian Sarah Robles just snagged Team USA’s first weightlifting medal since 2000, winning bronze in the women’s over-75-kilogram weight class for hoisting a total of 630 pounds in two separate lifts. She’s also proving that women of all sizes can achieve athletic greatness.
“This means a lot, to be on the podium and give exposure to our sport,” Robles told Reuters after competing on Sunday. “It’s good not just for me, but for women of size, for women who want to get up off the couch and do something different.”
Robles’s path to the podium has been fraught with hardship.
Before the 2012 London Olympics, BuzzFeed reported that she was struggling to afford food. Her training schedule made it difficult to work, and because of her body type, she couldn’t attain the top-dollar sponsorships that often support athletes financially.
“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 told BuzzFeed.
Then, in 2013, she failed a doping test and was banned from the sport for two years. She later wrote on her blog that the failed test was the result of a supplement prescribed by her doctor to help treat her polycystic ovarian syndrome. Still, Robles lost her funding from Team USA and had to take on three jobs in order to stay afloat and keep training.
All this makes her return to the Olympics — and her climb to the podium — even more meaningful.
“I still have bad thoughts about myself, but I’ve learned that you have to love yourself the way you are,” she told BuzzFeed in 2012. “I’ve learned that if you love yourself now, you can do amazing things.”
Looks like she turned out to be right.
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