Ketty Lent from Mauritius. (Photo: June Wilhelmina Shimuoshili)

Weightlifting: A sport for all

BUENOS AIRES — Mauritian weightlifter Ketty Lent had a point to prove at the Youth Olympic Games.

The 17-year-old athlete wanted to dispel the gender stereotypes surrounding her sport and show that weightlifting is as much a sport for women as for men.

“I almost gave up after my first competition but I had support that made me see that I could do it and take it further,’’ Lent said. “ My elder sister and I are the only female weightlifters in my village. She had been doing it for a while and she makes sure that I don’t get caught up in the distraction of people telling that weightlifting is not for girls.’’

Ketty competed in the women’s 63kg group at the Buenos Aires 2018 Games on Friday, finishing seventh out of 11 athletes. The gold medal went to Kumushkhon Fayzullaeva of Uzbekistan, with Thipwara Chontavin of Thailand winning the silver and Galva Shatova of Bulgaria the bronze.

Gender equality in sports is a global issue. Research conducted in 2017 by Sport England through the This Girl Can campaign suggests that two million fewer women than men take part in sports regularly in England. The study also found that the main reason for lack of women participating in sports is the fear of being judged negatively.

Women only started competing in Olympic weightlifting at the 2000 Games in Sydney. For the third edition of the Youth Games, the International Olympic Committee invited 17 athlete role models to share their experiences with the athletes to inspire them to be the best they can be.

One of the role models is USA weightlifting champion and Olympian Morghan King, who said it is unfair that society tells girls that the sport is not ladylike.

Morghan King from USA. (Photo: June Wilhelmina Shimuoshili)

“For women, weightlifting is a tool to show just how powerful you are,’’ King said. “It is not a bodybuilding sport. It doesn’t change who you are on the inside. It just helps you get stronger mentally and physically. It is not just for men.”

According to USA Weightlifting, between 2012 and 2016 the overall membership in the sport in the United States rose by about 125%. Women now make up 35% of the current membership, up from just 19 % in 2007.

King said this is a good sign but more still needs to be done to bring girls and women into the sport. Social media has a big role to play in promoting the sport for women, including through videos on YouTube.

Ellie Pryor, a lifter from Great Britain who finished sixth in the 53kg category, said she enjoys proving the naysayers wrong.

Ellie Pryor from Great Britain. (Photo: June Wilhelmina Shimuoshili)

“I feel really great when people tell me women can’t weightlift because here I am, lifting weights,” she said. “People say I will end up looking like a man but I have been doing this since age six and I don’t look like a man. Don’t listen to them, just lift and carry on.”

Story by IOC Young Reporter June Wilhelmina Shimuoshili