Desert Hot Springs native Sarah Robles is the first American woman weightlifting gold medalist in more than two decades, after winning three medals on the final day of competition in the International Weightlifting Federation World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim.
Robles, 29, who was raised in Desert Hot Springs and graduated from San Jacinto High School in Riverside County, made all six of her lifts in the over- 90-kilogram class of the championships Tuesday.
Weightlifting competitions consist of two portions, the snatch and the clean and jerk, with each athlete given three attempts in both.
In the snatch, the bar is lifted from the floor to overhead in one motion. Robles lifted 126 kilograms in the snatch and was assured of the victory when Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand missed at 127 kilograms on her final attempt. Hubbard won the silver medal with a lift of 124 kilograms. Tania Guadalupe Mascorro Osuna of Mexico won the bronze medal with a lift of 119 kilograms.
In the clean and jerk, the barbell is lifted overhead in two continuous motions — the clean, which brings the bar to the shoulders, and the jerk, in which the athlete raises the bar overhead. Robles won the clean and jerk by lifting 158 kilograms. Egyptian Shaimaa Ahmed Khalaf Haridy won the silver medal, lifting 153 kilograms. Duangaksorn Chaidee of Thailand won the bronze medal, lifting 152 kilograms, one kilogram more than Hubbard, who finished fourth.
The best total in each successful lift is combined for the overall total. Medals are awarded in the snatch, clean and jerk and total. Robles’ combined lifts of 284 kilograms brought her the gold in total weight. Hubbard was second with 275 kilograms and Haridy third with 268, one more than Duangaksorn.
“I felt really strong and I was so happy to do this in front of my mom, my teammates and my country,” Robles said after the competition at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Robles competes despite Madelung’s deformity, a congenital impairment of a forearm that causes her pain when she lifts or does everyday motions.
She began weightlifting at San Jacinto High School when her track and field coach Rich McClure had her use Olympic lifts to improve her performance in the shot put and discus throw. Robles competed in some local weightlifting meets in 2004 and 2005 “and I fell in love with it,” she said.
Robles received athletic scholarships at Arizona State to compete in track and field, but changed those plans after her first season in 2008, when she met weightlifting coach Joe Micela and decided to shift her focus.
The last time an American woman won a world championship was in 1994, when Robin (Byrd) Goad won the women’s 50-kilogram class. The world championships are held annually except in Olympic years.
Robles, who now lives in Houston, became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in weightlifting since 2000 when she won a bronze medal in the women’s over-75-kilogram class in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
She is also just the fourth U.S. woman in history to win a world title and the first to do so since women’s weightlifting was added to the Olympics in 2000.