Sarah Robles, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (referred to as Mormons or LDS), will represent the USA at the Olympics this summer as the #1 ranked female weightlifter in the country. But it’s her life-long “Olympic spirit” that led to her success.
This is what I’ve been working for–whether I knew it or not–my entire life,” said the 24-year-old Robles, who lives in Mesa, Arizona. “Everything that I’ve done, everything that’s happened to me in my life, has helped me prepare for this moment and for my future at the Olympics.
Her childhood in Desert Hot Springs and San Jacinto, California was fraught with difficulty. She weighed almost 11 pounds at birth—and was always big for her age, which led to incessant teasing from classmates.
Her family lived in humble circumstances, due to the devastating illness of her father, who died in 2006. Her mother became the sole caretaker and was seldom free to support Robles as she competed as a member of the San Jacinto High track team in the shot put, discus, and hammer throwing events. Robles also suffers from Madelung’s deformity, a congenital defect of a bone in her forearm which causes pain each time she lifts.
Because of some of the difficulties she encountered as a kid, Robles started a blog, Prettystrongblog.blogspot.com with her best friend to encourage girls to recognize their strengths and to help dispel the myth that there is only one “right” body type. The blog is welcoming and gives insight into her personality:
I can tie a cherry stem with my tongue, open a starburst wrapper in my mouth, and hold a fork in my forehead.
I enjoy doing old lady activities like driving my PT Cruiser, cross-stitching, and crocheting.
My athletic goals are to break the American Records, make the 2012 and 2016 Olympic team and earn a medal.
My personal goals are to become a wife and mother, a throwing, weightlifting, and strength and conditioning coach.
I’d like to do public speaking encouraging girls to do sports and help combat bad body image. I’d also like to raise awareness and funds for research for Stroke victims and those with Multiple Sclerosis.
While in high school, Robles asked her Mormon track and field teammates if she could attend church with them. She was welcomed right away, according to an article in the Deseret News. Robles was touched by a lesson centered on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
“I started crying and went into the hall. I couldn’t understand why I was crying,” she said. “Someone told me I was feeling the Spirit.”
She found it easy to understand Mormonism. She was baptized in 2006 after five months of studying the gospel and meeting with the missionaries.
“Finally, it fit. Everything was there,” she said. “It was like it was already implanted in me.”
Since her baptism, she has discovered that her maternal grandparents were LDS, as is her cousin, San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle.
After high school, Robles accepted a track and field scholarship to the University of Alabama, and then transferred to Arizona State, where she met Joe Micela, strength and conditioning coach and owner of Performance One.
He recognized her Olympic potential and began training her in weightlifting. After she medaled in several national competitions, she gave up track and field and pursued weightlifting with Micela as her coach. The rest is history.
Robles prayed silently moments before the Olympic trials in March. Trent Toone,a journalist for the Deseret News wrote the following:
“Heavenly Father, I really need this lift to be on the Olympic team. Please give me the courage and strength I need to lift it,” she humbly asked.
The total weight on the bar measured 144 kilograms (316 pounds), and as Robles heaved upward, she immediately thought, “There is no way.” Across the room, her coach and friend feared Robles would lose the bar.
Then with a burst of hidden strength, Robles recovered. She managed to clean and jerk the bar triumphantly over her head. She had done it — she was going to the 2012 London Games.
“Nobody thought I would make it,” she said. “I don’t know how it happened. It was like there were angels on the platform. The Lord answered my prayer in a way I probably didn’t deserve. I don’t think I will ever forget that prayer in my life.”
Robles is quick to recognize how blessed she has been and how worthwhile the journey has been.
“I’ve relied more on my faith as difficult times have come in my career. There’s been a lot of little miracles. I don’t know why, but God wants me on the Olympic team and he has blessed me in the journey,” Robles said. “I just needed to have faith, do everything on my end that I can possibly do and know that God would fill in the blanks.”
Robles relishes every new experience as a member of Team USA. She is determined to give a strong performance for the 2012 Olympic Games, though she is not favored to medal. Ukraine, China and Russia are the predicted winners. Coach Micela and her mother will be cheering her on from the stands in London. On her Facebook page, she wrote:
I left the OTC to come to Arizona and train. Gave up an additional $250 a month plus free room and board, free sports med and massages. I slept on an air mattress on the floor for months before getting a bed. I stood in line for hours at the food bank to get groceries. I lived in several different houses including someone’s exercise room. I still don’t have any furniture. To make another Olympic Team, I’d do it all over again.”
Robles kept her calm in London. She had a personal best lift weight and placed 7th overall.