Weightlifting is traditionally an adult sport: Athletes can train into their mid-30s before becoming world class! But at 16, Cheryl Haworth is rewriting the rules -- and the record books.
Three years into her career, Haworth already owns every U.S. women's weightlifting record. She's preparing for her first world championship next month in Athens, Greece.
The Savannah, Ga., native has the weightiest of goals: "I won't stop lifting until I know I can get close to, or become, the best in the world," she said.
Haworth's performance at the Pan Am Games in August shows she's well on her way. She took the women's gold medal and set two U.S. records. At 5 feet, 8 inches and 290 pounds, Haworth is a natural. She has a 30-inch vertical leap and explosive power.
Her coach, 1980 U.S. Olympian Michael Cohen, met Haworth when she was 13. "Her father said, 'My daughter is the strongest girl in the world,' " Cohen recalled. He was skeptical, until the novice hoisted 110 pounds over her head like a loaf of bread.
"It's like finding a diamond that's not quite in the rough," Cohen said. "The only difference is, she isn't a sliver of a diamond -- she is the Hope Diamond."
In the meantime, Haworth takes the sport and her life in stride. A junior at Savannah Arts Academy, she is also a talented artist and an avid softball player. Her eventual ambition is to become a doctor. Haworth encourages other girls to lift. "Just go for it."
Weights rise, records fall
In the 75-plus kilogram weight class, Cheryl Haworth holds every U.S. women's record. Can world records be far behind? Compare her U.S. records to the world records:
SNATCH: 117.5 kg
World: 122.5 kg, Agata Wrobel, Poland
CLEAN & JERK: 137.5 kg World: 156 kg, Meiyuan Ding, China
TWO-LIFT TOTAL: 252.5 kg
World: 275 kg, Meiyuan Ding, China,