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The Strongest Woman in America Lives in Poverty

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  1. #1
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    The Strongest Woman in America Lives in Poverty


    Courtesy Sarah Robles.


    Robles competing at the world championships last year. Courtesy of Robles.


    Courtesy of Valerie Dew Photography.
    Last edited by Curt James; 07-04-2012 at 01:27 PM.

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    sassy69 pointed me to this article.

    The Strongest Woman In America Lives In Poverty

    Weightlifter Sarah Robles is an incredible athlete, but outside the world of squats and snatches, barely anyone knows her name. And even though she's the U.S.?s best chance at an Olympic medal, she'll never get the fame or fortune that come so easily to her fellow athletes - in part because, at 5 feet, 10.5 inches and 275 pounds, she doesn't fit the ideal of thin, toned athletic beauty.


    Sarah Robles at the Olympic trials. Photo courtesy of Robles.

    "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. On her best day, she can lift more than 568 pounds ? that?s roughly five IKEA couches, 65 gallons of milk, or one large adult male lion.

    But that doesn't mean much when it comes to signing the endorsement deals that could pay the bills. Track star Lolo Jones, 29, soccer player Alex Morgan, 22, and swimmer Natalie Coughlin, 29, are natural television stars with camera-friendly good looks and slim, muscular figures. But women weightlifters aren't go-tos when Sports Illustrated is looking for athletes to model body paint in the swimsuit issue. They don?t collaborate with Cole Haan on accessories lines and sit next to Anna Wintour at Fashion Week, like tennis beauty Maria Sharapova. And male weightlifters often get their sponsorships from supplements or diet pills, because their buff, ripped bodies align with male beauty ideals. Men on diet pills want to look like weightlifters ? most women would rather not.

    Meanwhile, Robles ? whose rigorous training schedule leaves her little time for outside work ? struggles to pay for food. It would be hard enough for the average person to live off the $400 a month she receives from U.S.A. Weightlifting, but it?s especially difficult for someone who consumes 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day, a goal she meets through several daily servings of grains, meats and vegetables, along with weekly pizza nights.

    She also gets discounted groceries from food banks and donations from her coach, family and friends ? or, as Robles says, ?prayers and pity.? Robles could save cash by moving into the free dormitories at U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado, but she refuses to leave her coach, Joe Micela, who's become a father figure to her: Her own father died of a blood vessel disease when she was 17.

    Robles grew up in Desert Hot Springs and San Jacinto, Calif., where she became a top-ranked shot putter who earned scholarships to University of Alabama and later Arizona State University. She was self-conscious about her body from a young age, until middle school, when she first got into sports and discovered she could use her large frame to her advantage.

    "When she got into sports, she came home one day and she said, ?I finally feel accepted.? That's when she just kind of settled into herself,? her mom Joy Robles says.

    Coach Micela began working with Robles in 2008, when she was attending Arizona State and began lifting weights to improve her shot-put throw. Within just three months of training with Micela, Robles had qualified for weightlifting nationals and decided to forfeit her scholarship. She began competing across the country and the world ? beating every other American at the world championships last year. Then, in March, Robles and fellow super heavyweight competitor Holley Mangold qualified for the U.S. Olympics team. (Robles beat Mangold by four kilograms.)

    Because of her financial troubles, Micela donates much of his time and pays to travel with Robles to competitions. Most Olympians make money through their governing bodies, as well as sponsorships, endorsements, speaking engagements, and the like. These endorsements can be worth six figures or more ? like Michael Phelps? $1 million deal to be a spokesman for Mazda in China ? or they can compensate athletes with free equipment or products. PowerBar is Robles? only product sponsorship and her name isn?t yet big enough to land her any big special appearances.

    "It's simple," Robles says. "If a company wants to advertise their brand, there?s no benefit in sponsoring you if you?re not getting any exposure.?

    As an Olympian, Robles doesn?t have to pay for her own travel, lodging and food in London. Neither does her mother, Joy, who won a special grant for Olympic parents from Procter & Gamble.

    "I really didn't think I had a chance in hell of going," says Joy, who has only been able to afford to see her daughter lift competitively three times. ?We're so used to not good stuff happening, so this is just kind of mind-boggling.?

    Since the Olympics began hosting women?s weightlifting in 2000, only two American women have ever earned medals, both at the inaugural Sydney games: Tara Nott, who won gold in the flyweight category, and Cheryl Haworth, who earned bronze in super heavyweight, Robles? category. If she does medal, Robles says her chances of landing more sponsorships won?t dramatically increase ? after all, they didn?t increase much for Cheryl Haworth after her win at age 17. Following Haworth's second Olympics, she had to sell her house and move to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

    "Being an Olympian isn't always glamorous. We don't get tons of dough. Maybe one or two percent of athletes can actually make a living off it,? says Haworth, 29, who retired two years ago and now works as an admissions officer for the Savannah College of Art and Design. ?It?s a sacrifice that not everyone is willing to make. Not everybody is willing to scrounge or figure out how to pay those bills ... Sarah's ability to get through those tough times really sets her apart.?

    Robles wants to teach P.E. when she retires from weightlifting ? sometime in the next four to 10 years, she says. When she?s not training, she blogs, crafts and goes to church. She went on a few dates before the Olympic trials, but she?s shy, and it?s hard to find a guy who?s comfortable dating a woman who?s bigger, taller and completely committed to her training.

    "I still have bad thoughts about myself, but I've learned that you have to love yourself the way you are,? Robles says. ?I may look like this, but I?m in the Olympics because of the way I am."

    Robles has become a role model to the bigger girls who come work out in her Mesa, Ariz., gym. She?s not entirely comfortable with the idea of being someone's mentor, but she?s easing herself into the job. On her blog, she shares weightlifting tips and stories of being a plus-size athlete. She also has a Twitter and Facebook page, where she shares her mantra, ?Beauty is strength,? with about 350 followers. It?s become her personal brand, and if she's lucky, sponsors with a similar message will catch on.

    Still, Robles and Micela aren?t overly optimistic about her chances in London. Robles might be the best in the U.S., but the current women?s world record is about 150 pounds over her personal best.

    "If she beats her own record, I'll be happy," says Micela, whom Robles calls her "number one sponsor."

    "I've learned that if you love yourself now, you can do amazing things. If you don't, you're closing so many doors," Robles says. "It's not an easy thing to do. It takes work and it takes practice. Just like my sport."

    From The Strongest Woman In America Lives In Poverty
    Last edited by Curt James; 07-04-2012 at 06:32 PM.

  3. #3
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    SMH.... Im not surprised, but it would be nice to see people rewarded for their efforts and achievements.
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    And male weightlifters often get their sponsorships from supplements or diet pills, because their buff, ripped bodies align with male beauty ideals. Men on diet pills want to look like weightlifters ? most women would rather not.
    Thats how the system works. Strong or not, nobody wants to see roseanne on their wheaties box.

    She went on a few dates before the Olympic trials, but she?s shy, and it?s hard to find a guy who?s comfortable dating a woman who?s bigger, taller and completely committed to her training.
    uhhuh

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    I'd fuck her.... yes, my standards are pretty low... but the bitch gots a fatass

    She should lose weight, retain strength, and compete in a lower weight class because damn she looks hideous in that 3rd picture...

    Positive comment: Hopefully she does well in the Olympics though, hopefully she gets her gold medal then she can focus on other things...

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    If she's living in poverty it's by her own choice, I mean sometimes you have to make a choice, be a powerlifter or get a job

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    Great story

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    I think its an interesting reflection of the US approach to Olympic sports vs most of the rest of the world where athletes are government sponsored. This is not a new story to anyone who is remotely familiar w/ women's bodybuilding, so its hard to show huge empathy - I feel for her, but if she has had the opportunity to go thru college on a scholarship, she's got a degree and has the means to have a job. There are many in the BB world who manage to do all their training, follow a much heavier burden in terms of diet & recovery than this athlete and still maintain a viable income (w/o relying on webcam, etc.).

    Women do also suffer w/ the "fuckability factor" - even for those athletes who get sponsorships, particularly for women there's been historical pressure to maintain a lean, feminine look, sometimes to the detriment of their ability to compete in their sport (ref: Female Athlete Triad - maintaining such a degree of low bodyfat to be "commercial", which to the female body, can lead to amenorrhea - stopped menstrual cycle - which in turn leads to osteoporosis / brittle bones - which, if you're a top-level tennis player or some such very high-impact sport, you're basically just waitiing to be crippled. All so your sponsor will stay with you. Hmmmm ... worth it?) There's nothing that says she HAS to look how she does. Not all male strength athletes look like Fat Bastard. Personally I could spend a lifetime crawling all over Mariusz :cP~~~

    Anyway - best of luck to her and hope she finds a more supportable situation.


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    Quote Originally Posted by SFW View Post
    Hey, odd looking people date. Trust me. I've had actual girlfriends and I'm definitely no Brad Pitt. My head is shaped like a shoe box, so if Robles says she dated, she dated!

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    That coding is a stubborn ****. I'm probably the only OCDish person it's bothering, so I'm walking away from it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sassy69 View Post
    I think its an interesting reflection of the US approach to Olympic sports vs most of the rest of the world where athletes are government sponsored. This is not a new story to anyone who is remotely familiar w/ women's bodybuilding, so its hard to show huge empathy(snip)
    I'm a cynical jerk at times and wonder, too, if the writer exaggerated her poverty as an article hook or some kind of sensational angle.

    She "blogs, crafts, and goes to church"? I tutor, work at a book store, and teach. She's only 23, so I won't criticize her too harshly but maybe she should give up her online and crafts time and skip church for a part-time job.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt James View Post
    I'm a cynical jerk at times and wonder, too, if the writer exaggerated her poverty as an article hook or some kind of sensational angle.

    She "blogs, crafts, and goes to church"? I tutor, work at a book store, and teach. She's only 23, so I won't criticize her too harshly but maybe she should give up her online and crafts time and skip church for a part-time job.
    Yea, I thought it was sort of a "woe is me" sort of story tho. I guess at that age you have certain simple views of the world, not to mention most everyone at that age is broke anyway. But still, seems a bit short-sighted, and I feel like there are so many other things a reporter could've focused on to highlight this athlete in a positive way.
    Last edited by sassy69; 07-05-2012 at 12:19 PM.


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    What I get from the article is that she's pretty happy with what she is doing. The poverty thing she seems to be working around. Not everybody needs a huge income to be happy.
    If gunners were as violent as anti-gunners believe, logically there wouldn't be any anti-gunners left.

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    Strong Girl. Sorry for her though.

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