Sarah Robles ended a 16 year-long Olympic medal drought Sunday as she took the bronze in the +75kg Women's Weightlifting competition at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Robles, 28, was flawless as she went 6 for 6 in her Olympic competition lifts. In the snatch, she came out strong with a 118kg lift. She followed that up with a 122kg and 126kg lift, all successful. It was smooth sailing in the clean and jerk where Robles completed all three lifts at 151kg, 155kg and 160kg. Her total weight was 286kg. Robles' Olympic fate was sealed when Egypt's Shaimaa Haridy missed her third and final clean and jerk attempt at 169kg.
"My main thought was just really pulling on the bar and getting underneath it and I knew the rest would take care of itself," Robles told USA Weightlifting about her final lift. "I wasn't really thinking about medals I just really thinking about having Sarah's day and if it got me medals, cool, if it didn't then at least I had the best day. You can't complain when you do your absolute best."
"We had numbers that we thought would put us on the medal stand and you know what, she did it," coach Tim Swords told USA Weightlifting.
|Clean & Jerk||151kg||155kg||160kg|
"Overall, this quad has been the most challenging mentally for me, just trying to overcome my own self-doubts and trying to erase the negativity of a lot of people around me," Robles said. "I finally realized that the results, the medals, that's really not what we're here for. We're here for the process and we're here for the learning experiences and we're here to represent our country and that day I was crying my eyes out thinking about my own experiences. I had an overwhelming sense of American pride and Olympism."
Robles had to fight through pain to make her last lift.
"I had clean and jerked 155kg and thought I was feeling a little bit of pain in my upper back," Robles said. "But I told myself that I didn't. I lied to myself a little bit. Make yourself feel better so you can perform well."
Robles exploded with emotion after making that final lift, a 160kg clean and jerk.
"I remember my coach saying it's eight seconds against the rest of your life. So I was like 'I can do eight seconds, I've done eight seconds before, so I can do it
again,'" Robles said.
"Sarah has overcome some major adversities in the last several years but always remained focused on her dream," Carrisa Gump, 2008 Olympian and Associate Executive Director of Business & Development of USA Weightlifting said. "I am so proud of her. I am so proud she's part of the small sisterhood of weightlifters who have represented the United States at the Olympic Games."
Robles' accomplishment serves as an inspiration for women around the world.
"I think what happened tonight is a phenomenal thing," Robles said "It's a great thing for weightlifting as a sport. It's a great thing for women. It's a great thing for women of size."
"She was a true competitor today and left it all on the platform," Gump said.
"This was a magnificent performance," Phil Andrews, USA Weightlifting CEO said. "The USA is back on the medal stand for the first time in 16 years and we intend to stay. Congratulations to Sarah and her coaching team."
The Desert Hot Springs, Calif. native nearly set three American Records. She was 1kg shy of the snatch record and 1kg short in both the clean and jerk and total weight American Records. Those records are held by the last American weightlifter to win a medal at the Olympic Games-- Cheryl Haworth. Haworth took bronze in the women's +75kg category at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
This is Robles' second Olympic appearance and the biggest accomplishment of her career. She hadn't medaled in a major international competition until Sunday. in 2015, she won the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Russian Grand Prix. She finished 6th at the 2015 IWF World Championships and took home 7th place at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Robles trained in Houston in the run up to these games. She's coached by Tim Swords. Her previous coaches include Bob Morris, Rich McClure and USA National Coach and 1972 Olympic weightlifting champion Zygmunt Smalcerz.
Archived video from NBC Olympics