ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There are roughly half a million people who will be thrilled when they see the results of the women’s 69 kg. at the 2017 IWF Weightlifting World Championships – that is, if they weren’t already tuned in to see their favorite athlete compete.
Mattie Rogers, a 22-year-old American weightlifter, won bronze medals in the snatch, clean & jerk and total Saturday afternoon.
Aside from being known as the greatest U.S. women’s lifter at 69 kg. in history, Rogers is perhaps best known for her impressive social media following, which currently boasts over 479,000 followers on Instagram and 113,000 likes on Facebook.
Rogers’ first world medals also mark the first world medals for any U.S. woman in 12 years, since Olympic bronze medalist Cheryl Haworth earned bronze in clean & jerk and total in the +75 kg. class in 2005.
“I feel really great to be able to bring medals back to America for the first time in a while,” Rogers said.
Haworth was present at the Anaheim Convention Center for Rogers’ performance and was elated for her successor in U.S. women’s weightlifting.
“First of all, it’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years… watching the competition brings it back to me as if it was yesterday,” Haworth told USA Weightlifting. “It’s an absolute thrill for me to be present for Mattie’s incredible performance. USA Weightlifting should be enormously proud, as I am, for being represented at this world championships by such a strong, tough and determined bunch of athletes.
“The sincerest congratulations to Mattie today; she deserves her spot on the podium and I couldn’t be happier.”
Team USA had its most successful day at a weightlifting world championships in decades as Rogers’ medals came just hours after Harrison Maurus won two bronzes in the men’s 77 kg. for the first U.S. men’s medal in 20 years.
Rogers holds the American records in all three of her weight’s categories, though she wasn’t able to surpass any of those lifts at worlds. She set the snatch and total in May and June of 2016, respectively, and the clean & jerk in May 2017.
“A little bit disappointed in my performance because I know it could’ve been a silver or even a gold, maybe, had it been a better day, but can’t complain about three medals,” she said.
Making her first two snatch attempts and missing her third, and having a good lift for her first clean & jerk but missing the next two, Rogers maxed out at 104 kg. in the snatch and 131 kg. in the clean & jerk for a total of 235 kg.
Colombia’s Leidy Solis won the total with 239 kg. and earned silver in the clean & jerk (135 kg.), while Albania’s Romela Begaj won gold in snatch (107 kg.) and silver in total (235 kg.). Sara Ahmed, Egypt’s first woman ever to medal at the Olympics, won the clean & jerk with a 136 kg. lift, while Colombian Miyareth Mendoza Carabali took second in the snatch (106 kg.).
Rogers, who admitted she was nervous for the first time in a long time before she took the stage, entered the competition with no expectations.
“I had no idea what the other girls could do, and America’s never been in such a strong position coming in, so it was like a free-for-all, wing it, see what happens,” Rogers said.
It has been an impressive rise for Rogers, an Apopka, Florida, native, who was first a gymnast for 12 years and then a cheerleader for three before she started CrossFit at 17 years old. The next year, Rogers tried weightlifting.
She noted that the strength and athleticism gained from her gymnastics career has helped her progress faster in weightlifting.
It’s a sport that has seemed to fit the best, though she can’t explain why.
“It’s like asking someone why they love ice cream. I just love it.”
She competed at her first weightlifting meet in 2014, followed by making her first senior world team in 2015, when her top finish was 12th in the clean & jerk.
“I was barely in the B session in 2015, which obviously doesn’t get as much exposure or lights or anything like the A session, so just being in the A session was crazy,” Rogers said, looking back at her worlds debut. “And then to get a medal and be on the podium is something that I never thought would really happen this fast.”
With the 2015 worlds being held in Houston, Rogers’ first two world championships have come on home soil – a rare stat for an athlete of any sport.
“I’m kind of spoiled in that sense because I haven’t had to travel internationally for worlds, so it should be interesting next year when we’re in Turkmenistan,” she said.
And as for that massive social media following, Rogers explained that it started in her cheerleading days and has continued to grow exponentially since then – though she mused that now, as a world medalist weightlifter, she has a bit more of a reason to have a following than when she was a high school cheerleader.
“I just share whatever I feel like sharing. I don’t filter anything I put out there,” Rogers said of her social strategy. “I think it’s relatable for people who aren’t elite athletes. They can still relate to the things I’m saying or posting.”
Rogers won’t have too much time to celebrate her success, as she heads home to Florida on Sunday to take her final exams at Valencia College in Orlando.
But outside of the classroom, she intends to lift for as long as her body will let her – pointing out that female weightlifters tend to hit their prime in their late 20s.
So she’s just getting started, and has plenty of goals ahead of her.
“I would really, really like to have an international gold, whether it’s Pan Ams, worlds, whatever I can get,” Rogers said. “And I’m sure if I keep working at it, it can be possible.”