A 20 year old fitness enthusiast and dedicated Olympic style weightlifter. I am a Level 2 Weightlifting coach, Powerlifter, and non-competitive Irish dancer. I'm determined to live a healthier lifestyle and take care of my body whilst influencing other young people to do so. I never doubt my ability to achieve something; I just change what I'm doing until I succeed.
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I was scouring for blog post ideas this week (since I've finished one of my BTEC courses, so I have more time to write posts) and I found an old idea of mine hidden within the notes of my phone. I always find it historical and almost overwhelming that it was only in the year 2000 that Women were allowed to compete as Weightlifters within the Olympics. It sometimes shocks me that its not talked about very often and seems to be a topic that's brushed under the carpet in the sport. To think, if Women could've competed within the Olympics as Weightlifters before 2000 how many more successful Female Weightlifters could've made history! So within this post, I thought I'd highlight the inspiring female Weightlifting figures who were the first to compete in world championships, change history or win their categories.
Born in 1884, Catherine Brumbach (Katie Sandwina) was an Austrian born circus strong woman. Women Weightlifting was viewed as a circus or freak-show act during this time period. Reading about Catherine, her act involved many men and women attempting to beat her in a wrestling competition and some lifting events. One day, Catherine defeated a famous strongman as she lifted near to 300lbs over her head (the man only lifting the weight to his chest). Since beating this strongman, Catherine adopted the stage name 'Sandwina' as a female derivative for the strongman's last name.
Sandwina's act progressed and she eventually showed many individuals her talent of being able to lift her 75kg husband above her head (Not to mention this was completed with one arm!). She was also able to bend steel bars and pull the weight of four horses. Sadly, Catherine and her act of Katie Sandwina died of cancer in 1952. Her amazing start to the 'phenomena' of Women Weightlifting will always be historical. She set the standards for the maximum amount of weight that a Woman could lift above her head (130kg).
Dr Karyn Marshall
Four years after the death of Katie Sandwina, Karyn Marshall was born and ready to break the record that Katie had set, this was the kick-start to Women's Weightlifting. This record was broken when Karyn lifted 131kg and earned herself a place within the Guinness Sport Record Book. Competing as a 76kg+ and 82.5kg+ lifter, Karyn became the first Woman in history to officially Clean and Jerk more than 136kg, she lifted 137kg (303lbs). This is available to watch on Youtube when searching for 'Karyn Marshall'. Achieving 60 American Records and including 8 World Records, Karyn's achievements and lifting ability was clearly phenomenal! She was named the 'Worlds most powerful Female', and proud she should've felt to hold that title. Prior to this, Karyn had been competing against Men, before it was confirmed that a Women's National Weightlifting Competition would be formed. She had even been refused to be acknowledged at placing first, all because she was a Woman.
Karyn also gained silver medals within some International/ World competitions in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990. The 1987 World Champiosnhips only being a few weeks after the historically known Wall-Street Crash (impacting Karyn as a analyst and regular trader), she was working many extra hours but still gained a World Record Total of 220kg, winning the Women's World Championships. The 1989 Womens International championships being in Manchester (which is an hour away from where I reside) makes me wish I was born just two decades earlier! Viewing the results from that competition, it is clear that Karyn dominated the leader board, placing in the Clean and Jerk, Snatch and Total. This was also where Karyn achieved a world record 110kg Snatch and an outstanding total of 240kg.
People think women weightlifters are squat and muscle-bound, with all the intelligence of amoebas. - Dr Karyn Marshall
Although Karyn is well known as a Female Weightlifter who made history within the International Weightlifting Hall of Fame, I thought it was important to honor that Karyn was a first responder and volunteered as a chiropractor to help those involved in the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Learning about Karyn from writing this post has been very inspiring. She holds the title of Dr and works as a Chiropractor. In 2006, Karyn made a comeback at the age of 50 and achieved a National Total Record of 143kg. Placing 6th in World at the 2011 Cross fit Masters Games, Karyn now coaches Weightlifting and crossfit. She must be proud to not only say that she is a survivor of the gender-biased era surrounding Weightlifting, but that she is also a fighter and survivor of many years with Breast Cancer. Karyn's best ever lifts stand at 112.5kg Snatch, 137.5kg Clean and Jerk, and a 247.5kg Total. To read more about Karyn Marshall, visit her site below:
I think I project femininity and intelligence, which people may not think is possible. When people start looking at us as athletes and not oddities, we will be better off. - Dr Karyn Marshall
The next Woman I would like to introduce within this post is a remarkable lady named Judy Glenney. Born in 1949, Judy has had a successful career achieving titles as a National Weightlifting Champion and becoming an International Weightlifting Federation Referee and Women's Coach. I specifically wanted to mention Judy Glenney within this post since she lifted within the first official American National Women's meet. She began competing within the early 70's just for fun and not for any form of trophy or medal. She also officiated in the first Women's World Championships in 1987, followed by officiating the first feature of Women competing within the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Whilst competing herself gaining five Gold medals within World Masters Championships, a Gold medal in the World Masters Games and several Gold national Championship medals; Judy was also chairwoman for the United States Weightlifting Federation.
I had always been interested in testing my strength, but growing up that’s just something girls didn’t do. - Judy Glenney
I am sure that Judy was involved in bringing Women's Weightlifting into the Olympic Games and how thrilling it must've been when Women's Weightlifting officially became an Olympic sport! Judy's best Snatch lift was 82.5kg, her best Clean and Jerk lift was 97.5kg and her best Total was 172.5kg. Due to all of Judy's coaching, officiating and lifting; she was titled the 'Strongest Woman in History'. In 1989, Judy wrote a book entitled 'So you want to be a female Weightlifter'. This included adaptations to the Weightlifting technique due to a Woman's anatomy and physiology, if I ever find out how I can purchase a copy, it'll be an amazing Weightlifting book to review upon this site! More recently, Judy teaches Tennis, circuit training, weight training and many more physical activities. To read more about Judy Glenney, visit her site below:
Karnam was the first Indian Woman to compete within an Olympic games and the first Indian Woman to represent the sport of Weightlifting. I've mentioned the infamous Sydney 2000 Games quite a bit now, what a phenomenal competition that would've been to watch! Within this competition, Karnam received a Bronze medal in the 69kg category achieving a 240kg Total (110kg Snatch, 130kg Clean and Jerk). Karnam also achieved a World title in the 54kg Class, placing 2nd in '94 and winning in '95. She has gained an incredible 29 International Medals and 11 Gold Medals, Karnam is continuing to put her effort into the sport through creating an Indian foundation for Weightlifting, see her website below:
Dr Kulsoom Abdullah
Not only was Kulsoom Abdullah the first Female Weightlifter to represent Pakistan in the 2011 World Championships, but she was also the first Female Weightlifter to be allowed to compete wearing a full body outfit. Usually, Weightlifters are made to wear a singlet which reveals the arms and legs of an individual. After being denied the right to compete, Kulsoom changed history in 2011 when she was allowed to wear a unitard, which respected her religious views. Thankfully, the IWF modified the rules to allow for this to happen, meaning that more Women with religious views like Kulsoom's will now be allowed to compete whilst feeling comfortable in what they are wearing. She was also the first Female Weightlifter to wear a hijab within a competition, which must be inspiring to other Women and young girls who can also compete whilst up keeping their religious views. After all, the sport of Weightlifting should allow for anyone to compete and modifications should be made to ensure that everyone can experience the feeling of being strong. Kulsoom Abdullah is also a computer engineer with a PHD, giving her the title of Dr. She has a website entitled 'lifting covered' which is linked below.
In a contemplative world, we would think about how to come up with attire that would bring out the best in all competitors, regardless what their religious or personal level of modesty is. This is not a beauty contest, not a religious litmus test. - Dr Kulsoom Abdullah
I have known of Zoe Smith for the longest I can remember, my Grandad/Coach has always preached and praised her name throughout my life as a Weightlifter. She was the first English Woman to win a Commonwealth Games Weightlifting medal, this was in 2010 when she won a Bronze medal as a 58kg lifter. Zoe now holds four British Clean and Jerk records, her 121kg Clean and Jerk being achieved at the London 2012 Games. Zoe has also achieved two Bronze European Medals and one Bronze, Silver and Gold Commonwealth Games Medal, lifting as a 58kg and 63kg lifter. Zoe has always been an inspiration to me and I'm sure many other Weightlifters would say the same! As such a young, hard-working lady she has progressed so much within the sport (even after overcoming her Shoulder injury that I watched on the live stream). Zoe definitely has a bright future ahead of her!
I totally empathise with women when they say they find it quite intimidating. Until you find your stride, it is very intimidating. - Zoe Smith
Thank you for reading this blog post of mine, it has been very enjoyable to learn about the backgrounds and records that these strong and clever Women have achieved! Disclaimer: I do not hold the rights to the images and quotes upon this blog post, below is a list of references.
Katie Sandwina Image 1:
Karyn Marshall Lifting Image 1:
Karyn Marshall Block Quote 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karyn_Marshall
Karyn Marshall Image 2: Redbankgreen.com
Karyn Marshall Block Quote 2: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-07-29-sp-145-story.html
Judy Glenney Image 1: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bklemens/22416070949
Judy Glenney Block Quote:
Karnam Malleswari Image 1:
Kulsoom Abdullah Image 1:
Kulsoom Abdullah Block Quote:
Zoe Smith Image 1: https://www.martin-macdonald.com/testimonial/zoe-smith
Zoe Smith Block Quote: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/weightlifting/2019/05/14/olympic-weightlifter-zoe-smith-depression-confidence-still-intimidated/