When you think of the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, you may think of several things. I have been involved in the sport as an athlete and coach for 12 years, and I have heard it all.

Probably the most common misinterpretation of the sport is that we are body builders, and people ask, “Do you wear the speedo on stage?” Sometimes I just laugh and respond with “yes.”

Now CrossFit has done a lot to bring the sport to the limelight. Now more than ever the sport is becoming known and understood. Almost every weight room in town has an Olympic weightlifting platform and some bumpers (rubber weights).

Probably the most famous weightlifter of our time is a very large Soviet Union athlete by the name of Vasily Alekseyev. Alekseyev is most known for his gold medal finishes in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Alekseyev was 6’1” and weighed a whopping 350 pounds.

So what if I told you that you don’t have to be a 350 pound man who can throw 500 pounds or more over your head; and that, now more than ever the sport is becoming enormously popular with female competitors.

The sport at the Olympic level can be dated back to as early as 1896 with male competitors, but it was not until the year 2000 that women were able to compete in the sport at the Olympic level.

In 2012 in London, a Canadian athlete by the name of Christine Girard brought home a bronze medal for our country. She was 138 pounds and could lift just under 300 pounds overhead. Upon seeing her you would not think that she was able to lift that amount of weight. She was not a bulky, large looking woman as you may expect. She was actually quite slender, this debunking the common misconception that if a woman lifts weights they will become “too big.”

Locally, we have some great female Olympic weightlifters; Christine Jaasund is a member of the Medicine Hat College weightlifting club and has a lot of potential in the sport. Another great lifter with immense potential is Joey Boylan; she represents another club in town by the name of Brawn Barbell. When looking at both of these lifters you would never expect that they can lift the amount of weight that they can.

The sport of Olympic weightlifting is alive and well and is strongly represented by some great female lifters who are challenging the common myth that females lifting weights will ruin their femininity.

Cory Coehoorn is the Alberta Sport Development Centre – Southeast coordinator and FAME member. Cory can be reached by phone at 403-504-3547 and via email at ccoehoorn@mhc.ab.ca.