USA Weightlifting Features 18 Women Who Shaped ...

18 Women Who Shaped Women's Weightlifting

March 08, 2018, 12:41 p.m. (ET)

On International Women’s Day, USA Weightlifting celebrates the spectacular contributions of 18 Women in our history who have made a difference for Women’s Weightlifting in the United States.

Today, a record 47% of all USA Weightlifting athlete members are women. Our women’s team is also currently ranked among the top 3 in the World.

These 18 American Women are just a handful who had a hand getting us here.

USA Weightlifting thanks these women for their work to further the sport, and the many others who have contributed. USA Weightlifting especially pays tribute to the 11 athletes who have competed in the Olympic Games for Team USA: Sarah Robles (2012, 2016), Morghan King (2016), Jenny Arthur (2016), Holley Mangold (2012), Cheryl Haworth (2000, 2004, 2008), Carissa Gump (2008), Melanie Roach (2008), Natalie Woolfolk (2008), Tara Nott Cunningham (2000, 2004), Cara Heads-Slaughter (2000) and Robin Goad (2000).

In no particular order, here are 18 women who helped shape our sport into what it is today.

Tara Nott Cunningham with her Gold Medal at the 2000 Olympic Gams in Sydney, Australia

Tara Nott Cunningham (State College, PA)
As the first woman crowned Olympic Champion in Weightlifting, Tara Nott Cunningham will forever live on in the history books. Still a holder of the Clean & Jerk and Total American Records, Cunningham claimed gold in the 48kg weight category at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the first Games for women in weightlifting. Cunningham also won the Pan American Games and until very recently, held the Pan American Records. Cunningham is a member of the IWF Hall of Fame.

Aimee Anaya Everett celebrates a good lift.

Aimee Anaya Everett (Terrebonne, OR)
After a standout career on the platform including time at the Olympic Training Center, Aimee Anaya Everett retired as an athlete to coach at Catalyst Athletics. In her time as a coach, Anaya Everett has become one of only 3 International Coaches in USA Weightlifting. She most recently coaching Jessica Lucero to American Records and appearances at the IWF World Championships.

USAW President & IWF Vice President Ursula Garza Papandrea speaks at the Opening Ceremony of the 2017 IWF World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, California.

Ursula Garza Papandrea (Pflugerville, TX)

Today, March 8, Ursula Garza Papandrea led a historic camp in the Islamic Republic of Iran to support the establishment of the Women’s team of that nation. Despite being among the top nations in the sport consistently, the Islamic Republic of Iran has never fielded a team of women. The US and Iran are discussing a competition later this year.

Papandrea is also a 5-time World Team member, the first woman to earn the Senior International Coach certification in USA Weightlifting. She is also the first woman elected Vice President of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). Garza Papandrea serves as Chair of the IWF Women’s Commission, and the first woman to coach a men’s team to the USA Weightlifting National Team Championship with Texas Barbell.

A pioneer in women's weightlifting, Judy Glenney's extraordinary career in weightlifting spans 3 decades.

Judy Glenney (Vancouver, WA)
Glenney’s extraordinary career in Weightlifting began in the 1980s. In 1987 she was the first Woman to referee an international competition at the 1987 IWF World Championships in Daytona Beach. From 1983 to 1989, she served as Chair of the USA Weightlifting Women’s Committee during a critical time for Women’s Weightlifting. She also served as coach and official at the very first international championship held in Budapest, Hungary. Glenney has also authored a book on Weightlifting for the female body.

Robin Goad is the only athlete to compete in both the first IWF World Championships for women and the first Olympic Games that featured women's weightlifting.

Robin Goad (Newnan, GA)
The last American to own a Senior World Record, Robin Goad is the 2017 recipient of the Mabel Rader Award for Lifetime Contribution to Women’s Weightlifting. Throughout her athletic career, Goad won 20 World Championship medals. She also set countless American Records, and was a stalwart of Team USA from 1987 to 2000. She is also the only athlete to compete in both the first IWF World Championships (1987) for Women and the first Olympic Games for Women (2000).

Corinne Grotenhuis not only lifts, but is an advocate for women to become technical officials in the sport. 

Corinne Grotenhuis (South Elgin, IL)
Corinne Grotenhuis has been active in the Sport of Weightlifting for more than 30 years including time on the IWF Masters, Pan American Masters and U.S. Masters Board of Directors. She currently serves on the USA Weightlifting Technical Committee. Perhaps her leading contribution to Women’s Weightlifting has been and advocate for women to join the ranks of USA Weightlifting Technical Officials. As an IWF Category 1 referee, Grotenhuis has helped lead many new officials to gain their “blue blazer.”

Carissa Gump's weightlifting career started as a teenager as a Resident Athlete at the Olympic Training Center. Since then she's competed at the Olympic Games and transformed USA Weightlifting's fundraising program.

Carissa Gump (Colorado Springs, CO)
An Olympian in 2008, Carissa Gump is one of very few Olympians to come from the Green Mountain State of Vermont. She was inducted into the New England LWC in 2015. As an athlete, Gump held numerous American Records and spent time as a Resident Athlete at the Olympic Training Center. After retiring, Gump dedicated herself by giving back to the sport. She worked her way up the organization to become Associate Executive Director of USA Weightlifting. In her 5-year tenure in the National Office, Gump started the first donor program in the sport. Today the program she started is now one of the most robust in the U.S. Olympic Movement.

A 3-time Olympian, Cheryl Haworth still holds American and Youth World Records.

Cheryl Haworth (Atlanta, GA)
A three-time Olympian, Cheryl Haworth claimed the first Olympic bronze medal in history in the +75kg weight category at the 2000 Olympic Games, the first Games for women in weightlifting athletes. Her 125kg snatch at the 2000 Games in Sydney still stands today as a Youth World Record. Haworth also holds American Records to this day. Until 2017, Haworth was the last American to win a medal at a World Championships. She won Bronze in 2005.

Cara Heads-Slaughter was on the first Women's Weightlifting team at the Olympic Games in 2000. She is now a successful coach and founder of CFHP Performance.

Cara Heads-Slaughter (Arlington, VA)
Cara Heads-Slaughter made history at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, lifting in the inaugural 75kg Olympic Weightlifting competition for women and being the first African-American woman to lift at the Olympic Games. Since retiring as an athlete, the former D1 thrower and 8-time National Champion has founded CFHP Performance, a leading club in the DC metro area. She is one of only three women to achieve International Coach ranking in USA Weightlifting.


Laurie Lopez served more than 15 years at the USA Weightlifting National Office and held many positions within the organization.

Laurie Lopez (Colorado Springs, CO)
Spending more than 15 years with USA Weightlifting, Laurie Lopez saw USA Weightlifting through good times and the bad. Lopez was with USA Weightlifting during a period of immense growth and held many different positions up to and including Interim CEO of the organization. Due to her popularity with USA Weightlifting’s membership and the high regard in which she was held, the 2017 National Championships were named in her honor. Lopez retired from USA Weightlifting in 2016.

Karyn Marshall swept the podium at the inaugural IWF Weightlifting World Championships in 1987. She's been inducted into the USA Weightlifting & IWF Halls of Fame.

Karyn Marshall (Monmouth Beach, NJ)
As USA Weightlifting’s first Women’s World Champion, Karyn Marshall swept the field at the 1987 IWF World Championships, making history for both the US and for the sport. Having competed throughout the 1980s, Marshall crowned her achievement in Daytona Beach at the inaugural World Weightlifting Championships for Women in 1987. Team China had come to Daytona Beach and took a majority of the medals before Marshall’s dominant performance. Marshall was inducted into the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in 2010 and the IWF Hall of Fame in 2015.

Mabel Rader (Alliance, NE)
The namesake of the Mabel Rader Award for Lifetime Contribution to Women’s Weightlifting, Mabel Rader is one of the pioneers of Women’s Weightlifting. She helped pave the way towards the very first IWF Women’s World Championships that were held in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1987. Rader was also the very first female official in the history of USA Weightlifting and formed the Committee that explored the very first US nationals for Women in 1980.

Melanie Roach never gives up, and that grit led to a 6th place finish at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Melanie Roach (Bonney Lake, WA)
An Olympian in 2008, Melanie Roach made an amazing comeback into Weightlifting at age 41 to make the 2015 Pan American Games. That made her the oldest women to compete in the Olympic or Pan American Games for Team. The mother of 5 also is responsible for a 6th place at the 2008 Olympic Games, which stood as the highest finish for an American for 8 years.

Sarah Robles celebrates on the platform at the 2017 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Robles went on to win bronze, the first American weightlifting athlete to win an Olympic Medal in 16 years.

Sarah Robles (League City, TX)
The reigning World and Pan American Champion, Sarah Robles also won the first medal for Team USA in the Olympic Games for 16 years in at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. At the World Championships in Anaheim last year, Robles became the first American Woman to win the World Championship for 23 years since Robin did Goad in 1994.

Mattie Rogers ended a 12-year drought for American women at the World Championshisp by winning medals at the 2017 World Championships in Anaheim, California.

Mattie Rogers (Apopka, FL)
Mattie Rogers has been a significant change-maker in the popularity of Women’s Weightlifting in the United States. Often regarded as the World’s most popular Weightlifter, her exposure has assisted with the growth of Women’s Weightlifting. At the 2017 IWF World Championships, Rogers ended the 12-year drought for a Women’s medal by winning 3 medals in the 69kg category.

Dr. Jan Todd, along with her husband Terry, run the Stark Center at the University of Texas.

Dr. Jan Todd (Austin, TX)
Along with her husband, Terry, Dr. Jan Todd is responsible for the Stark Center at the University of Texas. The Stark Center for Physical Culture & Sports catalogues the significant history of strength sports in the United States. Along with her husband, Jan Todd has also had a hand in preserving our storied history along with other strength sports like Powerlifting and Strongman.

In 2018, Sally Van de Water became the first woman to officiate a men's IWF-level competition in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Sally Van de Water (New Park, PA)
Sally Van de Water, a Technical Official, became the first American female to be awarded the position of speaker at a World Championships. She served as speaker at the 2017 IWF World Championships in Anaheim, California. Today, she is the first female official to officiate a Men’s IWF-level competition in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Emmy Vargas served Team USA as an athlete, advocate and now board member of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Emmy Vargas (Woodland Hills, CA)

As an athlete, Emmy Vargas competed as part of Team USA at the World Championships, the Pan American Games and Pan American Championships. Earning the support of her fellow athletes, she served 8 years as the Athlete Representative for Weightlifting for the U.S. Olympic Committee and on the USA Weightlifting Board of Directors. Continuing her contribution to Weightlifting off of the platform, Vargas is now a member of the Board of Directors at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.