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A Heavy Lift

By Nicholas Goda | Dec. 04, 2012, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

Holley Mangold lifts in LondonHolley Mangold of the United States competes during the Women's 75kg Weightlifting of the London 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.

At 22, Mangold already has a long list of accomplishments on her athletic resume.  An Olympic weightlifter, she was also the first non-kicker to play in an Ohio Division III high-school football game, a member of Ursuline College’s start-up swim team and featured on MTV’s reality show True Life.

Mangold says she got her start in sports at a young age.

“I think six months after I was born they [her parents] already threw me into a pool,” Mangold said.  “I started swimming right off the bat.  Football, swimming, track and field, volleyball, and basketball became all of my sports.”

Football became Mangold’s passion as she grew up and went to school.  She used football as her springboard into Olympic weightlifting.

“I really loved it and I’m really thankful because football is what got me into powerlifting, which then got me into weightlifting,” she said. “So it was definitely a good experience.  I liked it a lot.  I miss it most days.”

Mangold continued sports as she traversed from high school to college.  She attended Ursuline College for two years where she was active on both the swimming and track and field teams.

Mangold enjoyed swimming butterfly and thinks it helped in her current career as a weightlifter.

“I think that equates to weightlifting pretty well, the use of your hips, so it’s kind of interesting how everything correlates,” Mangold said.

Two years into her college education Mangold decided to drop out and fully pursue weightlifting.  She says a friend who passed away was one of her main inspirations to pursue her goal of making the Olympic team.

“I had to drop out of Ursuline because it was that point in time where it’s either make it or break it,” she said.  “You had to either say you’re going to train for it and actually do it or keep going with school. 

“One of my really good friends passed away my sophomore year and she was always the one who would look at me and be like, ‘Why aren’t you doing this full time?  I think you have a chance.’  So when she passed away that’s when I made the final decision.  Life is short… it’s time to see if I can actually do this.”

During this time Mangold’s journey was chronicled on MTV’s True Life reality series.

“It wasn’t originally MTV True Life,” Mangold said.  “It was just a documentary they were doing.  They started my junior year of high school and it was because of football.  It had nothing to do with weightlifting.  They came over, started filming and then I got into weightlifting.  They were like, ‘This is really cool.’  Then I made a Pan Am championship and they sold it [video footage] to MTV.”

“It was crazy how it ended up.  I never thought I’d end up on MTV."

The episode shows Mangold compete in the 2010 Pan American Championships, her life working out and living with her coach and her acceptance into a residency at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center.  

“It shows some of the highest and lowest times of those couple years that they followed me,” she said.  “It was definitely something very weird – a good experience that I wouldn’t take back.”

The episode also featured fellow Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles and the competitive intensity they shared.

“Sarah and I … we’re competitors so there’s always going to be that edge,” Mangold said of the antagonistic edge MTV portrayed.  “I think it’s a friendly competitive, but we are competitive.”

The episode also showed some heated scenes between Mangold and her brother Nick, a center for the New York Jets football team.

“The show kind of portrayed it [their relationship] as more of a rivalry than it is but I mean he’s my brother, we’re extremely competitive against each other but I mean that’s pretty much it.”

The episode ended with Mangold “bombing out” in the American Open.  Bombing out is when a weightlifter fails to complete a lift in both the snatch and the clean and jerk.  Since she failed to successfully complete the meet Mangold was not asked to return to the Olympic Training Center.

She said this gave her the drive to continue to pursue her dream of making the Olympic team.

“It still drives me and I think I never would have made the Olympics if I wasn’t kicked out of here,” she said.  “I think that it was a good thing that happened but it definitely made me very angry…  At the time I was very upset, but it’s what got me to the Olympics because every day I wanted to train, I wanted to prove them that I did deserve to be here.”

Mangold returned to her home state of Ohio and began training with Mark Canella.  She worked her way back up and made it to the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

“When I first made the team it was a huge relief,” Mangold said.  “It was over, the trials are over I don’t have to worry about that anymore.  When I got closer to the Olympics, I was like holy crap now I have to lift in the Olympics.”

Unfortunately, three days prior to leaving for London, Mangold tore some ligaments in her wrist.

She was told a replacement could not be fielded that close to the Games so Mangold decided to lift through the pain.

Mangold competed and placed 10th overall in the +75kg division.  She was able to lift 105kg in the snatch and completed her total with 135kg in the clean and jerk. 

“It was one of the most painful experiences I’d ever dealt with.  Not only physically, but mentally it was hard to get over knowing that you were really hurt and this was your one shot and it’s a lot harder now.”

 Holley Mangold meets President Obama and Vice President Biden
 U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Vice President Joe Biden
welcome Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold (C) at the White House.

A few weeks after the Games, the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams were invited to the White House to meet President Obama.  Mangold attended and was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Obama used her name in his speech.

“It was crazy because you never think the president is going to know your name.  And the fact that he knew my name and actually knew I was a weightlifter, it was great.  It was amazing.”

After the White House visit Mangold returned to the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center to rehab her injury from London. 

“At the Olympics I tore every single ligament I had in my hand.  My bones had shifted and they had to completely reconstruct my hand.”

Mangold has special plans for her surgery scar.

“My plan is on the one-year anniversary from lifting in the Olympics to get the rings tattooed right over my beautiful scar on my wrist, just a reminder of everything that happened.  I’m deathly afraid of them [tattoos] but I feel like this is one I’ve actually earned so I want to get it.  It’s a sense of pride and every time I look down on it I’m going to remember how much pain that meet was.”

Mangold has also applied to Ohio State University for the Spring 2013 semester.  She hopes to continue her education and begin training for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

“I can’t leave my Olympic experience the way I left it,” Mangold said.  “That can’t be my last one.  So I will either make it or die trying.”

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Holley Mangold

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Sarah Robles