Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles took home bronze in Rio and is a champion for body positivity
The weightlifter, who is about 5’10” and 350 lbs. became the first American to win a medal in the sport since 2000 on Sunday, after lifting an unbelievable 160 kgs. – or about 353 lbs. After her big win, Robles spoke out about what it means for other women of her size.
“I think what happened tonight is a phenomenal thing,” Robles tells USA Weightlifting. “It’s a great thing for weightlifting as a sport. It’s a great thing for women. It’s a great thing for women of size.”
She says that feeling confident in her body got her to where she is today – on the podium at the Olympics.
“I didn’t have to conform my body or my ideals or my looks to get where I am,” Robles tells the LA Times. “I have a bronze medal and I was able to be myself, embrace my body, do the things I’m naturally fitted to do to help make my dreams come true.”
“To challenge ‘normal’ ideals is an important thing. It’s cool to be me. I’m big and strong and putting it all for good use.”
Her road to body positivity started early, when she was bullied as an elementary school student after a girl called her ‘fat’ and punched Robles in the face.
“I got bullied as a kid, and one of my motivations is to not let anyone else feel the way I felt about me,” she says. “No one should have to hate themselves, doubt their abilities, change what they like or who they are.”
“If I can be another voice of reason and kindness to help silence everyone else who says something negative about you, that’s a good thing.”
That still hasn’t been easy, though. One year after finishing seventh in the London Olympics, Robles, who suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome, received a two-year suspension from the sport for testing positive for traces of steroids and a hormone supplement. Robles argued that it was just from an over-the-counter treatment for PCOS, but her attempts to overturn her suspension were unsuccessful.
RELATED VIDEO: Road to Rio: How Did Team USA Train for the Olympics?
“I made a decision to try to tend to my health issues,” she says. “I had legitimate reasons. I still should have done things different but I didn’t. I’ve since served my time, I passed my tests, I’ve done everything I need to do to redeem myself and move on.”
And now, with a bronze medal around her neck, Robles has, and joined other U.S. Olympians like Michelle Carter and Amber Campbell in speaking out for their size, even if it doesn’t fit that of a typical athlete.