Sarah Robles

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Sarah Robles aims to cap strong showing for U.S. weightlifting women

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Jenny Arthur gave the U.S. women a third medal Wednesday in the world weightlifting championships, a feat that was unprecedented in this century. On Friday, Olympic bronze medalist Sarah Robles tries to make it an unfathomable four.

Robles has already ended two droughts for U.S. women’s weightlifters. In 2016, she took Olympic bronze to become the first U.S. women’s medalist since 2000. The next year, she was the first U.S. woman to win a world championship since Robyn Byrd in 1994. (Second behind Robles in the 2017 super heavyweight competition was Laurel Hubbard, a transgender athlete competing for New Zealand.)

READ: Hubbard faces uphill climb to qualify for 2020 Olympics

U.S. women were successful for the first years of world championship competition, which opened for women in 1987. When the sport debuted in the Olympics in 2000, Tara Nott and Cheryl Haworth won medals, with the diminutive ex-gymnast Nott being bumped up to gold after apparent winner Izabela Dragneva of Bulgaria failed a drug test, but no U.S. woman reached the podium again until Robles.

Haworth also was the last U.S. woman to win a world championship medal, a bronze in 2005, until Instagram star (619,000 followers) Mattie Rogers took bronze in 2017, three days before Robles’ gold.

Also in 2017, Harrison Maurus became the first U.S. man to win a world championship medal since Wes Barnett in 1997. No U.S. man has medaled this year.

This year, the U.S. women have already bested their 2017 breakthrough, starting with a 1-2 finish at 71kg, where Kate Nye won gold and Rogers took silver. Jenny Arthur made it three with her bronze at 81kg.

READ: Nye, Rogers go 1-2 at 71kg

Despite her resume, Robles will be an underdog in her weight class. She ranks fifth coming into the event, just behind North Korea’s Kim Kuk Hyang but farther behind the trio of Russia’s Tatiana Kashirina, China’s Li Wenwen and China’s Meng Suping, all of whom have lifted a total of 300kg between the two phases of competition (snatch, clean and jerk). Robles won the 2017 title with 284kg, when many of the top lifters weren’t present, and set an American record of 290kg to take fifth in the 2018 world championships.

In addition to the medals for combined weight between the two lifts, the world championships offer medals for each individual lift. Arthur won silver in clean and jerk, Rogers won clean and jerk silver along with bronze in the snatch, and Nye swept the gold medals on offer.

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U.S. ends world weightlifting title drought; transgender lifter gets silver

Sarah Robles
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Sarah Robles, who in Rio earned the first U.S. Olympic weightlifting medal since 2000 (super heavyweight bronze), on Tuesday became the first American to win a world title since 1994.

The 29-year-old lifted two fewer kilograms than she did in Rio — a total of 626 pounds between the snatch and the clean and jerk in Anaheim, Calif.

The last American to win a world title was Robin Byrd in 1994.

New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard took silver with 606 total pounds, the first-ever world medal for her country.

Hubbard, 39, previously competed in men’s weightlifting as Gavin Hubbard, according to Reuters, which reported that Hubbard continued to decline interviews Tuesday, as she has for much of this year.

“She stayed away because she was embarrassed, probably,” Robles’ coach, Tim Swords, said, according to Reuters. “When Sarah beat Hubbard in the snatch, we were congratulated by multiple coaching staffs. Nobody wanted her to win.”

Hubbard may be the first openly transgender athlete to compete at a world championships in an Olympic sport. No openly transgender athlete has competed at an Olympics, though Olympic rules allow it.

Robles, Hubbard and others benefited from the absence of countries banned for doping issues, like weightlifting powers China and Russia, and North Korea, another strong lifting nation, not sending a team.

Chinese and North Korean lifters won gold and silver in the super heavyweight division in Rio.

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U.S. Olympic women’s weightlifting team complete; no Holley Mangold

Holley Mangold
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The U.S. is sending three women’s weightlifters to the Rio Olympics, but 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold is not one of them.

Fellow London Olympian Sarah Robles, who served a doping ban from 2013 to 2015, and first-time Olympian Morghan King joined the already-qualified Jenny Arthur on the Rio team following the Olympic Trials in Salt Lake City on Sunday night.

No U.S. man has earned an Olympic place yet, but eight will head to a Pan American qualifying event in Colombia in June for the chance at one U.S. berth.

Mangold, the younger sister of New York Jets Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, completed one of her six lifts at the Olympic Trials, dealing with wrist problems in training, according to NBC Sports Live Extra commentators.

Mangold finished 10th in the super heavyweight class at the London Olympics and 13th and 23rd at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships. She also tattooed the Olympic rings on the side of her head.

Robles, also a super heavyweight, was the top U.S. lifter across all men’s and women’s classes at the 2012 Olympics (seventh place) and the 2015 Worlds (sixth place).

She tested positive for an exogenous androgenic anabolic steroid and/or its metabolites in 2013 and was banned for two years until last August. Robles said she took the supplement DHEA to treat a hormone disorder, which led to the failed drug test.

She failed to complete a snatch lift Sunday, but results in previous competitions boosted Robles onto her second Olympic team.

“I’m glad things ended up working out, because it was kind of hell for those last couple years,” Robles said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

The eight men who will vie for one possible Olympic spot in a Pan American event in Colombia in June are 2012 Olympian Kendrick Farris plus Norik Vardanian, Alex Lee, Caine Wilkes, James Tatum, Wesley Kitts, Travis Cooper and Donovan Ford.

The U.S. has not won an Olympic or World Championships weightlifting medal since 2005.

MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics