Coachella Valley Woman Lifts Combined Total of 630 Pounds to Take Bronze at Olympics

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sara-robles-1471300713-7762In her final lifts, the Desert Hot Springs native snatched nearly 280 pounds and hit a clean and jerk total of more than 350 pounds.

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – Desert Hot Springs native Sarah Robles won the bronze medal in the women’s over-75-kilogram weightlifting over the weekend in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, two years after being suspended for testing positive for a banned substance.

Robles was credited with lifting a combined total of 286 kilograms, 126 in the snatch and 160 in the clean and jerk to finish ahead of Shaimaa Haridy of Egypt for the first medal by an American woman in weightlifting since 2000.

“My main thought was just really pulling on the bar and getting underneath it and I knew the rest would take care of itself,” Robles said. “I wasn’t really thinking about medals. I (was) just really thinking about having Sarah’s day and if it got me medals, cool. If it didn’t, then at least I had the best day. You can’t complain when you do your absolute best.”

Each lifter is allowed three attempts at the snatch and three attempts at the clean and jerk. Their best lift in each is combined to determine their overall result.

Robles was successful in all six of her lifts at Riocentro-Pavilion 2. She opened the competition by lifting 118 kilograms in the snatch, then 122 kilograms and 126 kilograms. In the clean and jerk she lifted 151 kilograms, 155 kilograms and 160 kilograms.

Robles said she was “feeling a little bit of pain in my upper back,” after lifting 155 kilograms.

“But I told myself that I didn’t,” Robles said. “I lied to myself a little bit. Make yourself feel better so you can perform well.”

Robles said before her final lift, her coach Tim Swords was telling her “it’s eight seconds against the rest of your life.”

“So I was like ‘I can do eight seconds, I’ve done eight seconds before, so I can do it again,'” Robles said.

Robles was assured of a medal when Haridy failed to lift 169 kilograms on her final attempt in the clean and jerk. Haridy was fourth, lifting 278 kilograms, 117 in the snatch and 161 in the clean and jerk.

Robles was one kilogram short of the American records held by Cheryl Haworth in the snatch, clean and jerk and total weight. Haworth, who won the bronze medal in the over-75-kilogram division, and Tara Nott, the gold medalist in the 48-kilogram division, were the last American women weightlifters to win Olympic medals before Robles.

“This was a magnificent performance,” said Phil Andrews, CEO of USA Weightlifting, the sport’s national governing body.

Meng Suping of China won the gold medal with a combined total of 307 kilograms, 130 in the snatch and 177 in the clean and jerk. Kim Kuk Hyang of North Korea won the silver medal with a combined total of 306 kilograms, 131 in the snatch and 175 in the clean and jerk.

Robles was seventh in the event in the 2012 Olympics. She said the four-year period between Olympics “has been the most challenging mentally for me, just trying to overcome my own self-doubts and trying to erase the negativity of a lot of people around me.”

“I finally realized that the results, the medals, that’s really not what we’re here for,” said Robles, who turned 28 on Aug. 1.

“We’re here for the process and we’re here for the learning experiences and we’re here to represent our country and that day I was crying my eyes out thinking about my own experiences. I had an overwhelming sense of American pride and Olympism.”

Robles received a two-year suspension in 2014 from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, retroactive to Aug. 8, 2013, the date she was provisionally suspended by the International Weightlifting Federation, the sport’s international governing body.

Robles tested positive for the presence of an exogenous androgenic anabolic steroid and/or its metabolites as the result of one out-of-competition and two in-competition urine samples collected by both U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the International Weightlifting Federation.

Robles qualified for a spot on the U.S. team based on her ability to medal, calculated from performances at four events. Robles led the pack with more than 96 percent heading into the Olympic trials in May.

Robles competes despite Madelung’s deformity, a congenital deformity of the forearm, which causes her pain when she lifts or does everyday motions.

Robles’ road to the Olympics began at San Jacinto High School when her coach Rich McClure had her use the 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 from Alabama and Arizona State to compete in track and field, but those plans changed after her first season at Arizona State when she met weightlifting coach Joe Micela in 2008 and decided to abandon her throwing career to concentrate on weightlifting.

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