By Doug Williams | Nov. 06, 2014, 4:33 p.m. (ET)
Kelly and Caleb Williams will compete together at IWF World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

As Kelly and Caleb Williams prepared last week for their long trip from Georgia — the one in the United States — to Kazakhstan for the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships, they had no idea what to expect.

The two U.S. champions, both scheduled to compete this coming weekend, were to leave their home in Flowery Branch, Georgia, fly to Chicago and then on to Istanbul, Turkey, before the final leg to Kazakhstan and the championship venue of Almaty, the nation’s largest city.

“Neither one of us has (been there),” Caleb said. “This’ll be a new experience. All I know about Kazakhstan I learned from ‘Borat.’”

In other words, not so much.

But once they get into the rhythm of their practices and competition, they’ll likely feel right at home — even if they are about 6,500 miles from Flowery Branch.

The husband-and-wife lifters each won national championships this year in their weight classes to earn spots on the U.S. team, and both have long experience in the sport.

This will be the fourth trip to worlds for Kelly, 36, who’s 5-foot-8 and competes in the 48-kilogram (up to 105.75 pounds) class.

Though the middle school health and physical education instructor hasn’t medaled as a senior athlete, she’s been lifting since she was in high school and once was a bronze medalist at junior worlds. She’s lifted as much as 75 kilos (165.3 pounds) in the snatch and 90 kilos (198.4) in the clean and jerk.

This will be the third trip to worlds for Caleb, 30, who’s 5-foot-2 and 152 pounds and competes in the 69-kilo class. He’s done 130 kilos (286.6 pounds) in the snatch and 174 kilos (383.6) in the clean and jerk. He, too, has plenty of weightlifting experience, but only began Olympic-style weightlifting in 2006 after many years in powerlifting (a different discipline). He finished second in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

As a powerlifter, Caleb — who coaches and works at the two gyms the couple owns — once won a silver medal at the world championships and was a two-time junior world champion.

The Williamses go into this world championships with very simple goals.

“Lift as much as possible,” says Kelly, laughing.

And Caleb agrees. It’s not only important for their own outcomes — they’d both love to put up good results over the next year and a half in hopes of making the U.S. Olympic Team for Rio de Janeiro in 2016 — but for U.S. weightlifting. The better every lifter does in Kazakhstan will help the team qualify quota spots for Rio.

“Every point and every kilo count, so it’ll kind of come down to, on the fly, what we need to fall into place as high as we can ranking-wise,” Caleb said. “It really comes down to lift as much as we can and score as many points as we can for the team.”

Each knows it’s an uphill climb to get to Rio, but they’re taking a methodical approach. Caleb said they’re just taking it one competition at a time.

“It’ll definitely be a little mini-miracle if it happens,” Kelly said. “But if it happens, that would be awesome.”

Whatever happens, the couple will go through it together. It’s not every elite athlete who has a spouse involved in the same sport. Kelly says it’s fun to train together. The downside comes when they’re both trying to make weight at the same time before a competition.

“We’re both a little grumpy,” she said. “So we just learned what we can and can’t say to each other.”

Added Caleb: “(Most spouses) are supportive, but not necessarily involved, so a lot of times they might not understand it takes a lot of sacrifice and a lot of time and energy put into reaching goals. … She understands where you’re coming from and what you’re thinking and how much you’re putting into it, so it’s really been a blessing for us to do it together.”

Another upside, Kelly said, is “neither one of us complains about it when we’re both icing in the bedroom” after working out.

The two maintain very busy schedules, working, training and spending time with each other and their 8-year-old son. Aside from teaching, Kelly also coaches volleyball and cheerleading and works at their gyms. They also conduct weightlifting clinics together.

They even owe their relationship to the sport. They met while lifting at Coffee’s Gym in Marietta, Georgia, became friends and eventually fell in love and married.

To both, weightlifting is a sport they never tire of. No matter how much they achieve or improve, there’s always more that can be done.

“It’s a challenge, not just physically but mentally,” Caleb said. “Every day is a different challenge. You never master this sport.”

Kelly agreed, saying “there’s always something else to get fixed.”

One thing they can’t fix is their scheduled accommodations in Kazakhstan.

Says Kelly, laughing: “They don’t even have us rooming together. Oh well.”

Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.