Photo by Erin Dory
In one swift motion, sophomore Abby Flickner lifts a barbell onto her shoulders, then successfully above her head. She grins as she drops the weight, proud of her athletic performance.
Flickner has been weightlifting since she was seven years old. She first learned about it as she accompanied her brother when he was training for football.
“ had been weightlifting,” Flickner said. “I would go along with my dad to drop him off and pick him up. Soon, I was going along with him to the gym.”
She has been highly successful in competitions, with record lifts of 112.2 pounds and 145.2 pounds in the two competitive lifts she participated in Nov. 23.
“I have been to Youth Nationals since 2012, and next year will be my third Junior Nationals,” Flickner said. “ is for anybody who’s qualifying in the weight class under 20, so I compete against 20-year-olds. I also went to the Kansas State Championships in 2011.”
Weightlifters compete in two main lifting competitions, the snatch and the clean and jerk. The snatch is one fluid motion to lift the weight above the head, while the clean and jerk is a lift where the weight rests at the shoulders before being pressed upward above the head. Competitions run on a specific schedule.
“Usually it starts with weigh-ins, which are two hours before the actual competition starts,” Flickner said. “You only have three attempts per lift to do the best you can. In between the snatch and the clean and jerk, there is a 10-minute break, so people have time to warm up for the clean and jerk. After that, they total everything out.”
At the beginning of Flickner’s weightlifting career, she was one of the few girls at her competitions.
“At my first major competition in 2012, I was one of three in the whole session,” Flickner said. “It’s definitely growing as more and more girls are getting into it, but it’s still a male-dominated sport. Honestly, I just go with it. It’s kind of funny to see people’s faces when you tell them. They think you can’t really do it.”
This may be because Flickner, at 15, doesn’t look like the typical weightlifter. While talented in the sport famous for huge muscles, you’ll have to look hard to find her in a crowd. She is 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighs less than the barbells she hoists into the air when competing in the 55 kilogram weight class.
Flickner’s passion for weightlifting has never faltered, even when she had to sacrifice holidays for it. Now that she can have flexibility in her weightlifting schedule, the passion is stronger than ever.
“Before I started high school, I was with a coach and my life kind of centered around weightlifting,” Flickner said. “, either this or weightlifting. ‘Do I have a competition?’ or ‘Do I have practice?’ My coach retired, so I’m at home now. I can do more things, it’s not just weight lifting anymore. ”
Due to the high risk of injury, the sport helps Flickner be more fearless in other parts of her life.
“It reduces fear of things because it is pretty scary,” Flickner said. “It is a dangerous sport, you could drop a weight on yourself.”
But it goes beyond that for Flickner.
“It helps me mask emotions,” Flickner said. “Sometimes you need to focus on weightlifting and forget about everything else. It helps with other aspects of life in that kind of way.”