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The Strongest Woman In America Lives In Poverty
June 29, 2012 4:41 PM   Subscribe

The Strongest Woman In America Lives In Poverty. Weightlifter Sarah Robles is an incredible athlete, but outside the world of squats and snatches, barely anyone knows her name.
posted by roger ackroyd (102 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
What sort of sponsorships are male weightlifters getting? For instance, someone like Kendrick Farris? I'm having a hard time finding that info.
posted by mulligan at 4:50 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear Valve Corporation,

We just found your life model for the Heavy, so give Sarah some sponsorship and get cracking on that Team Fortress 2: Distaff Edition mod. FUCK YES PLEASE!
posted by nicebookrack at 4:57 PM on June 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


I hope something works out for her. She seems like such a normal person. As unfair as it seems that skinny kids cash in but she has to struggle, it does also seem refreshing and closer to the original ideals of the Olympics. I hope the Olympics are the start of good things for her.
posted by bleep at 4:58 PM on June 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sounds like a job for Kickstarter.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:03 PM on June 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


This reminds me of the article I read about Arnold and the boys during the early days of Gold's Gym and how they would pay their rent/groceries/medicine bills. Sissyphian movement of iron is not in itself lucrative.

Sounds like a job for Kickstarter.

Or a society.
posted by srboisvert at 5:06 PM on June 29, 2012 [30 favorites]


KokoRyu, there's an IndieGoGo fundraiser for her, but it didn't seem appropriate to link to it.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:06 PM on June 29, 2012


KokoRyu, there's an IndieGoGo fundraiser for her, but it didn't seem appropriate to link to it.

It's totally appropriate if you're asked to. Please link to it!
posted by DarlingBri at 5:08 PM on June 29, 2012


Help Sarah and Coach Joe Micela Reach the Olympics @ IndieGoGo. She only needs another $1000.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:10 PM on June 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


I'm both disheartened and inspired in the same breath with that story. Go Sarah!
posted by meinvt at 5:11 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


“If she beats her own record, I’ll be happy,” says Micela [her coach], whom Robles calls her “number one sponsor.”

“I’ve learned that if you love yourself now, you can do amazing things. If you don’t, you’re closing so many doors,” Robles says. “It’s not an easy thing to do. It takes work and it takes practice. Just like my sport.”


Right on! That is the absolute essence of weightlifting and the Olympics.
posted by vorfeed at 5:12 PM on June 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


On her best day, she can lift more than 568 pounds — that’s roughly five IKEA couches, 65 gallons of milk, or one large adult male lion.

Dang.

This was a cool article. Thanks for the link! I love it when metafilter is like HERE HAVE SOME KNOWLEDGE!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:14 PM on June 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, she seems great! Go Sarah!*

*It is really nice to be able to say "Go Sarah!" and not have it refer to another Sarah...you know the one. Especially since I mean it sincerely and not sarcastically. I feel like, after 4+ years, we can take back the phrase and apply it to someone else. So, victory at all levels.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:15 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stuff like this is the real death knell for the philosophical basis of so much of conservative thought. This woman works hard, has natural ability, and is using her talents to their absolute maximum, but The Free Market has decided that since she's a world-class weightlifter instead of an above-average middle manager, she won't profit handsomely off the fruits of her efforts.

Warren Buffett elucidated this well in one of his essays - he noted that society will vastly reward someone like himself with keen acumen for identifying mispriced securities (hardly the most noble or society-advancing of skills), but the world's best soldier will see nothing made of his skills. It's disheartening.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:16 PM on June 29, 2012 [50 favorites]


"On her best day, she can lift more than 568 pounds — that’s roughly five IKEA couches, 65 gallons of milk, or one large adult male lion."

When I read that the first time, I parsed it as 568lbs. = five IKEA couches PLUS 65 gallons of milk, OR one large lion. I struggled to find the relationship between the first two, and how they contrasted with the third. (You don't want to know what I came up with.)
posted by iamkimiam at 5:19 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I disagree with the gender bias framing of the article. Power lifters generally have high bodyfat percentages; the men don't have "buff, ripped bodies" as the article suggests. Even though these people are capable of astonishing feats, fat athletes don't fit into the aspirational narrative that advertisers are looking to sell.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 5:25 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Power lifters generally have high bodyfat percentages; the men don't have "buff, ripped bodies" as the article suggests.

Often true, but Sarah Robles is an Olympic weightlifter*, and male Olympic weightlifters look pretty darn conventionally good.

* For anyone on whom the distinction is lost: "Olympic weightlifting", often called just "weightlifting", is the strength sport that consists of the clean and jerk and snatch. It is still Olympic weightlifting even when it doesn't take place at the Olympic level. Powerlifting (and Strongman and other strength sports) are not contested at the Olympics.
posted by telegraph at 5:30 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yay for big, superstrong women! This is certainly a much better article than the NY Times Magazine one about her Olympics teammate Holley Mangold, which described her as looking like an egg when she was in a squat position and referred to her "enormous brassieres" hanging from a drying rack. Ugh, so gross.
posted by Salieri at 5:32 PM on June 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


According to her NBC profile, Sarah Robles has Madelung's deformity, which causes chronic forearm pain, especially when lifting.

Kendrick Farris competes at 85 kg, three weight classes below superheavyweight.
posted by hilker at 5:33 PM on June 29, 2012


This whole article is sweepingly disingenuous. As a former amateur athlete myself, and as someone who married a very good international-class athlete, I'm familiar with the plight.

But, you can't ever expect to gain fame and fortune in amateur athletics. If you do, great. But it's not remotely common - let alone expected, even if you're the absolute best at what you do. In the less common sports, anonymity is virtually guaranteed. As such, why should you expect fame or money from it? Are you generating revenue somehow? Interest? Are you being screwed over by a federation from your power lifting fortunes?

Who here can name ONE athlete in badminton? Archery? Kayaking? Anyone?

Then why expect to be famous and/or rich from it? It's nonsense. Don't blame the fact that you're not attractive. Blame yourself for the situation you got yourself into. It's not a terrible life. You get to do what you are best at, and what you love. Do it for as long as you can, be thankful for the time and then when you're not happy anymore go back to school, be a dentist or whatever and buy everything that you thought you needed but actually don't.

OK, rant over!
posted by jimmythefish at 5:37 PM on June 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


telegraph, I haven't paid much attention to the olympics since childhood, but I recall weightlifting being dominated by "fireplug build" Russians. Are people like Ferris in the minority or has the sport changed over the years?
posted by gngstrMNKY at 5:37 PM on June 29, 2012


Then why expect to be famous and/or rich from it?

I... have no idea where you got this from. Not a single word in this article indicates this woman or her coach expect fame or fortune. Some of us have the lofty aspiration that one of America's most outstanding athletes live above the poverty level. And that maybe, the coach she's spent seven years with be able to go with her when she goes to the Olympics. I just don't think that's outrageous.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:49 PM on June 29, 2012 [45 favorites]


i only know Adam Von Koverdean, because he tends to show up half naked on giant billboards, so jimmythefish might have a point
posted by PinkMoose at 5:53 PM on June 29, 2012


The last photo in the article, where she is wearing a purple top, is interesting. If I saw her like that on the street, I'd have no idea that she could (easily) lift me with one hand. It's a good reminder for me about making assumptions.

Hasn't the US always done a poor job of supporting its amateur athletes? I can remember Cold War-era comparisons of unsupported US athletes with the USSR and Eastern European athletes with year-round state support, for example. So in that sense this seems like a familiar piece to me, though of course sad in some ways.
posted by Forktine at 5:53 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some of us have the lofty aspiration that one of America's most outstanding athletes live above the poverty level. And that maybe, the coach she's spent seven years with be able to go with her when she goes to the Olympics. I just don't think that's outrageous.

Just one? And how much above the poverty level? Which sports? Just Olympic sports? Why should they be above the poverty level and not, say, a single mom? Please give me the numbers. Thx.
posted by jimmythefish at 5:55 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just one? And how much above the poverty level? Which sports? Just Olympic sports? Why should they be above the poverty level and not, say, a single mom? Please give me the numbers. Thx.

How about nobody in the US should be above the (current) poverty level (e.g. guaranteed minimum income plus single payer healthcare). As for why it's especially galling in this case: because she's been chosen to represent our country in the preeminent international sporting competition. Unfortunately, her situation represents our country all too well, I think.
posted by jedicus at 5:59 PM on June 29, 2012 [26 favorites]


...and I should add that there's a real and significant difference between living below the poverty level for an amount of time, and being genuinely disadvantaged. Any Olympian can pretty much pick their school program when they're done. People fawn over them - and they would her, too. You're likely organized and not trapped in any sort of cycle of poverty that comes from drug abuse or mental illness. So, yeah, not all that sympathetic. Been there myself. It's not that bad.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:00 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Sounds like a job for Kickstarter.

Or a society.


Societal change is incremental and seemingly glacial in pace. On the other hand, while the results are often unfair, crowdsourcing can often solve a problem nearly instantaneously.

While it's unfortunate that the athlete's body type is considered undesirable, it should also be pointed out that she has made a choice to compete at the Olympic level, and has also decided not to live in Olympic residences.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:01 PM on June 29, 2012


How about nobody in the US should be above the (current) poverty level (e.g. guaranteed minimum income plus single payer healthcare).

Oh I agree, but just the US? Why not other countries? Are you better than everyone else?
posted by jimmythefish at 6:02 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to her NBC profile, Sarah Robles has Madelung's deformity, which causes chronic forearm pain, especially when lifting.

Oh my god, there needs to be a lucrative production in the works for her inspiring Disney movie NOW. This is way, way better than the traditional narrative of "all Jane Smith wants to do is be a ballerina, but her tragic lifelong Soap Opera Cough threatens to hold her back from her dream!"
posted by nicebookrack at 6:03 PM on June 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Olympics is the abusive corporate regime of nasty Royals, corrupt politicians, and various villians and creeps.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:07 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not to derail, but what guarantee is there that the IndieGoGo funding will actually go to the person in question? How does this play into the funding-related MeFi stuff (ie active kickstarters)?
posted by timfinnie at 6:12 PM on June 29, 2012


Are you better than everyone else?

Just Australians.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:13 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


what guarantee is there that the IndieGoGo funding will actually go to the person in question?

She tweeted the address herself.
posted by roger ackroyd at 6:16 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


timfinnie, I share your skepticism for giving, though I think the more publicized the funding project, the better chance you have, and I feel good about this one.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:18 PM on June 29, 2012


Oh I agree, but just the US? Why not other countries? Are you better than everyone else?

Because this particular athlete is an American and the country is wealthy enough to make that a reality.
posted by jedicus at 6:23 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh I agree, but just the US? Why not other countries? Are you better than everyone else?

Ever heard of context? Where did anyone imply it was just in the U.S?. The conversation just happened to be about a situation in the States.

Who here can name ONE athlete in badminton? Archery? Kayaking? Anyone?

Then why expect to be famous and/or rich from it?


Outside the States you can make a fair amount of cash and be famous for playing badminton. I'm a fan Lee Chong Wei myself. I like the way he plays the game.
posted by juiceCake at 6:27 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just one? And how much above the poverty level? Which sports? Just Olympic sports?

All US athletes qualifying for the Olympics in all sports; 149% above the poverty level (so they can still qualify for foodstamps).

Why should they be above the poverty level and not, say, a single mom? Please give me the numbers.

Seriously? You really want to drag that straw man out and light it on fire this early in a thread?

Every single person should live well above the poverty level in the wealthiest country in the world. In terms of this particular woman, as we are asking her to represent her country on an international stage, it would be nice if we supported the athletic training that makes it possible for her to excel.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:29 PM on June 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


roger ackroyd and MCMikeNamara,

Well, I appreciate the comments. I poked around a little and provided some funds. Thanks for the responses.
posted by timfinnie at 6:30 PM on June 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


(annnnd.....she just hit her fundraising goal)
posted by roger ackroyd at 6:30 PM on June 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


These photos of athletes from many different sports was linked from this askme recently. The body type diversity is very cool, and beautiful.
posted by rtha at 6:31 PM on June 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


I... have no idea where you got this from. Not a single word in this article indicates this woman or her coach expect fame or fortune.

The entire thrust of the article is that she's not becoming wealthy and famous. The single sentence that she's quoted is “You can get that sponsorship if you’re a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini. But not if you’re a girl who’s built like a guy”. So it's implied in there somewhere behind the author rather negligent lack of focus on her actual subject, but hard to actually tell.

Of course, the better response might have been. "I... have no idea where you got this from. Not a single word in jimmythefish's comment indicates this woman or her coach expect fame or fortune."
posted by Winnemac at 6:33 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article says that because she is considered conventionally unattractive as a woman, and because of the obscurity of her sport, she does not enjoy the same sponsorship opportunities as, I dunno, members of the women's soccer team or whatever.

However, the purpose of the sponsorships in this athletes world are not for achieving fame and fortune, but just for training.

Although other Olympic athletes can finance their training via sponsorships, this athlete cannot.

It's a ridiculous situation, but thankfully her years of poverty and penury will be temporary until she chooses a more lucrative career like teaching.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:39 PM on June 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


…as we are asking her to represent her country on an international stage…

Who asked her?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:40 PM on June 29, 2012


Every single person should live well above the poverty level in the wealthiest country in the world.

If this is just about the US, why bring Qatar into it?
posted by jimmythefish at 6:40 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are you better than everyone else?

Just Australians.

posted by Brandon Blatcher


Pig's arse, china plate.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:43 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apropos to very darn little, the flickr stream telegraph linked to contains this little piece of win.
posted by drlith at 6:44 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


roger ackroyd: Help Sarah and Coach Joe Micela Reach the Olympics @ IndieGoGo. She only needs another $1000

...and $2500.

Let's hope this is another fundraiser that goes stratospheric.
posted by Decimask at 6:48 PM on June 29, 2012


Seriously? You really want to drag that straw man out and light it on fire this early in a thread?

It's all non-market social assistance, baby. It's not a straw man. Nobody asked her to compete for her country. Moreover, that itself is questionable. She goes to the Olympics and lifts weights, and nobody notices. Is that really representing your country? What good is she doing? What is she doing that a soldier doesn't? I ask these questions not to be a dickhead, or even disagree, but with the question of policy in mind. What makes her better? I don't disagree with funding athletes and culture and sport - not at all. I think it's terrifically important. But, is weightlifitng an equal cultural activity to cycling? Running? Soccer? Football? Baseball? Does it deserve equal footing? Does that help or hurt?
posted by jimmythefish at 6:49 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


(which is to say, the $1000 was raised within 98 minutes of Roger Ackroyd posting it)
posted by Decimask at 6:50 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given the vast amount of flag-waving, chest beating, and chanting of USA! USA! that goes on around the Summer Games, I'd think that the US could come up with a way to, you know, support the athletes who compete.

Because the flag-waving, chest beating and chanting would pretty much suck if no-one showed up to compete.

What was your sport, Jimmythefish?

Also: Rowing. Silken Laumann.
posted by jrochest at 6:51 PM on June 29, 2012


I was a runner. My wife was a rower. She knows Silken quite well.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:53 PM on June 29, 2012


And "no-one asked her" is a bit dry and crackly. If the USA sent a team the size of, I dunno, Iran, you don't think anyone would notice?
posted by jrochest at 6:53 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Set aside the fact that she decided to pursue a obscure sport with little sponsorship potential, there is also the brutal reality that she is simply not talented enough to compete and win metals in the Olympics. Female weight lifters from Russia and China HALF her weight (76k weight class) has higher totals than her. For perspective, her personal best is 255kg, current record in her 75+kg weight class is 326kg. 282kg for the 75kg class, and 286kg for the 69kg class.

I'm being traditionally athletic helps garner sponsorship, but even a big girl will get some attention if they are guaranteed medal prospects, but she simply isn't competitive.
posted by dirtyid at 6:53 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the USA sent a team the size of, I dunno, Iran, you don't think anyone would notice?

...and how would they do that, at three max. per event? The US consistently sends the biggest team by quite a large amount as I understand it.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:55 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Power lifters generally have high bodyfat percentages; the men don't have "buff, ripped bodies" as the article suggests.
Often true, but Sarah Robles is an Olympic weightlifter*, and male Olympic weightlifters look pretty darn conventionally good.
This is apples to oranges, though. The guy in that picure is in a middle weight class (I don't mean "middleweight", I mean a weight class in the middle of weight classes). Here's a picture of Christine Girard, who is in the middle weight class for women. No offense to Sarah Robles, but Girard seems more "conventionally attractive" to me.

Meanwhile, Robles is in the highest (unlimited) weight class. Here's a picture of Fernando Reis, who is in the equivalent male class. No offense to him, but he doesn't look "buff" or "ripped" to me.
posted by Flunkie at 6:58 PM on June 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sarah seems like an incredibly grounded person. She recognizes the unlikelihood of winning a medal due to the enormous competition from overseas. She aspires to become a PE teacher after she retires from lifting. And she certainly isn't complaining about the unglamorous nature of a sport she actively picked, giving up a scholarship as a discus athlete to pursue it.

The expectations of relative fame and fortune are absolutely not held by the athletes, but they are projected by an audience which views the Olympics as a glorious and highly capitalist celebration. Admittedly billions are made every go-round, but not by the athletes themselves.
posted by mek at 7:00 PM on June 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was a runner. My wife was a rower. She knows Silken quite well.

Different country, different sporting culture. Canada is a much smaller community, and rowing is a very popular sport here, especially in Victoria, BC, the headquarters of the Olympic rowing team. Rowing in Canada is also traditionally linked with business and professional networks, so it's not an obscure sport like badminton.

I think it's a shame that this thread is devolving into a somewhat hard-hearted discussion on the competitive merits of an Olympic contender. Just to get to the Olympics is something special that deserves our respect (although the healthy dose of realism that jimmythefish provides here is welcome, too).
posted by KokuRyu at 7:01 PM on June 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also sorry for the typos. Check out Lidia Valentin, competing at 75kg, bulky but still within the realms of conventional beauty, total lifts only 5kg less than Robles.
posted by dirtyid at 7:01 PM on June 29, 2012


Like Spiderman.
posted by Catch at 7:06 PM on June 29, 2012


True, KokuRyu -- and Canada always has medal hopes on the water, so she would have had a massive amount of publicity even without the accident/inspirational story, which really did make her Canada's Sweetheart TM.

But still: we spend so much time beating ourselves up over how to fund athletes, how much to fund them, and how to decide who gets the funding (everyone? do we fund the skeet shooters as well as men's hockey?). I've always assumed that the States didn't have this problem. Silly me.
posted by jrochest at 7:08 PM on June 29, 2012


From...

What makes her better?
Being significantly more likely that other people to achieve something other people never have a chance at? Well, maybe not better, but at least respectable. What do you think of respect?

But, is weightlifitng an equal cultural activity to cycling?
Apparently little.

Running?
And less.

Soccer?
FFS, these are different endeavors.

Football?
Seriously? I assume you're trolling here because you said soccer earlier and almost nooone cares about American football outside of the domestic fans.

Baseball?
Uh. Ok, no. Weightlifting is not equal to baseball. If you can, let me know how much Clemens can free-lift. Maybe the woman in question can throw some wicked curve-balls.

Does it deserve equal footing?
Are you trying to directly compare specific sports? I was a wrestler. I don't see that in your line-up. Which sport does it precede? Which precedes it?!

Does that help or hurt?
Your soldier point is noted, here. A soldier is a combatant in the field competing for position in an internationally-diverse and largely unpopular field. The soldier has all my support. That same soldier is not immune to criticism. The woman in question here is asking to be allowed to compete for national honor in an internationally recognized and affirmed arena. Her goal is not comparable to the soldier's goal.
posted by timfinnie at 7:20 PM on June 29, 2012


I don't disagree with funding athletes and culture and sport - not at all. I think it's terrifically important. But, is weightlifitng an equal cultural activity to cycling? Running? Soccer? Football? Baseball? Does it deserve equal footing? Does that help or hurt?

What on earth are you talking about?
posted by facetious at 7:29 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


What is she doing that a soldier doesn't?

Refraining from putting bullets into other humans?
posted by Greg Nog at 7:31 PM on June 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Every single person should live well above the poverty level in the wealthiest country in the world. In terms of this particular woman, as we are asking her to represent her country on an international stage, it would be nice if we supported the athletic training that makes it possible for her to excel.

But it is worth pointing out that the Olympics are supposed to be about amateur athletics. If you're getting paid, even at the poverty level, to compete in your sport, you're not really an amateur anymore.

This really infuriated many Americans for many years, because of all the state-sponsored athletes in other countries. Our athletes really were amateurs (often, admittedly, wealthy ones), but theirs weren't, being officially supported on the government dime to hone their skills.

If they just dropped the 'amateur' pretense, the problem would most likely sort itself out very quickly.
posted by Malor at 7:34 PM on June 29, 2012


What on earth are you talking about?

Is it right to fund everything equally? Why are the Olympics the benchmark for funding? Why does nobody talk about world championships? X-games? Being a soldier? Being a drug addict? Being sick? Being a politician? Being an astronaut?

Why should ANYONE receive public funds? Are we just drawing an arbitrary line in the sand for...? What good is weightlifting doing? We fund things we value so why should weightlifting be funded the same as other sports when we CLEARLY VALUE IT LESS. Or is it the effort we value? I could show you endless dishwashers who serve the public and who are shit on by society.

I ask these questions largely rhetorically, but honestly nobody here can say anything but 'because she represents our country' or 'because she's an athlete and poor' or 'nobody should be poor'. Which is cool, but largely applies to anyone who's poor.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:46 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


jimmythefish, just a quick reminder - you promised us "rant over" about an hour ago
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:48 PM on June 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


Is it right to fund everything equally? Why are the Olympics the benchmark for funding? Why does nobody talk about world championships? X-games? Being a soldier? Being a drug addict? Being sick? Being a politician? Being an astronaut?

No, they aren't, pro leagues are extremely well-funded, and: yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. (Politicians especially should receive a baseline level of funding and a hard cap on total spending. But that's completely unrelated to the topic at hand.)
posted by mek at 7:51 PM on June 29, 2012


jimmy's got a point -- fundamentally, the girl is just picking weights up and putting them back down again. Resources we allocate to her are resources we can't allocate to, say, fixing streets, or improving the power grid, or whatever. Since it's completely a consumption expense, as training her to be strong is highly unlikely to ever generate actual new wealth in the future, it should be funded from private, discretionary income, instead of by the government.

At least, when we're funding artists, we get pictures/sculptures/whatever out of it, something we can enjoy for a long time, but funding athletes in general doesn't produce much of anything. It doesn't strike me as a very good way to spend public money.

Obviously, a lot of people think it's very important, but it is fundamentally entertainment, and entertainment expenses are best paid for from voluntary funds, not taxed ones.

(man, don't even get me started on building stadiums to make sports teams happy. oooooh that makes me angry.)
posted by Malor at 7:55 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah man, these are new ones!

Anyways, I'm just a little tired of the old game of 'give me money I'm an athlete'. I felt that way once too, but then when I stopped competing and realized that there are things that are so much tougher in the rest of life I stopped really feeling sorry for anyone who gets a bit of funding here and there and manages to do something that's pretty selfish. 'Competing for your country' is as big a lie as Wilfred Owen's dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. The purest expression of sport is to compete as a human against other humans and fuck the jingoist bullshit. Plus, half that sentiment is corporate and the other half is ignored but for 2 months every 4 years.

For a selfish endeavour, you're mostly on your own. Yeah I'm in favour of a bit of money for athletes, sure, but the original article wasn't really about that.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:57 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I ask these questions largely rhetorically, but honestly nobody here can say anything but 'because she represents our country' or 'because she's an athlete and poor' or 'nobody should be poor'. Which is cool, but largely applies to anyone who's poor.

Fair enough, but c'mon, the thread's about a female athlete in a relatively unknown sport, and the obvious appeal is that she's a person who believes in herself and is very high-achieving, despite not fitting mainstream society's ideal of female bodily beauty, and despite not being highly rewarded. People don't expect to need to have our entire society figured out in order to participate in this thread. You're coming on a little strong.
posted by facetious at 7:59 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


jimmythefish: "Is it right to fund everything equally? Why are the Olympics the benchmark for funding? Why does nobody talk about world championships? X-games? Being a soldier? Being a drug addict? Being sick? Being a politician? Being an astronaut?
"

Yeah but no, what are you talking about in context of the article?
posted by boo_radley at 8:01 PM on June 29, 2012


Yeah but no, what are you talking about in context of the article?

Do you think this article is surfacing just now because of RIM's fall in stock price today, or perhaps Obamacare, or maybe because the Olympics are coming up soon? I know which one I have my money on.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:04 PM on June 29, 2012


Sounds like a job for Kickstarter.

Or a society.


I'm wondering how Kickstarter or other crowdfunding tools aren't part of society, though. In theory, every athlete has the ability to start their own crowdfunding drive, and it's not a lot different than sponsorship. Hell, it's better than sponsorship because you don't have to sport a bunch of logos on your jersey when you compete. It's also more immediate than government funding.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:11 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


'Competing for your country' is as big a lie as Wilfred Owen's dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

Well I don't know about that. There's a theory that international sport helps prevent international conflict by providing a safety valve for competition. Whether it's right or not I don't know (look at the 1936 Olympics, for example), but if it is that would make 'competing for your country' pretty socially valuable in a way that dying for your country isn't.

The purest expression of sport is to compete as a human against other humans and fuck the jingoist bullshit.

I don't know if the Olympics are meant to be 'the purest expression of sport.' They seem to be more about international cooperation and celebration of amateur sport (in theory, anyway).

Are there any major international amateur sporting competitions where the entrants are determined solely by performance and not by their nation of origin?

Plus, half that sentiment is corporate and the other half is ignored but for 2 months every 4 years.

I could certainly do without the former, that's true.

but honestly nobody here can say anything but 'because she represents our country' or 'because she's an athlete and poor' or 'nobody should be poor'. Which is cool, but largely applies to anyone who's poor.

"because she represents our country" hardly applies to anyone who's poor. And whether 'competing for your country' is a big jingoistic lie or not, it's still embarrassing that any representative of a wealthy nation like the US would be living in poverty.
posted by jedicus at 8:23 PM on June 29, 2012


I dunno. Ms. Robles sounds awesome and I wish her all the best, but I'm thinking that a super-hot person in any marginal sport outside of the big ones like track and field and swimming probably struggles. I doubt the big endorsements are rolling in for hotties involved in 10M air gun pistol or what have you.

Also, she could get free rent if she decided to move. Not a bad offer at all.
posted by bardic at 8:30 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


My only question is since this thread is already this deep, how come she hasn't already broke $5k?

COUNT ME IN
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:34 PM on June 29, 2012


What we value says more about us than it does about the thing we allegedly value. For chrissakes the "news" about Tom and Katie breaking up is probably getting more hits than anything about the SCOTUS decision on the ACA. It's a shitty metric.
posted by rtha at 8:51 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm an artist, but if the apocalypse comes and we need someone to move cars out of the way and fight back against the creepy scavengers, I think we need a weightlifter more under those circumstances. Clearly she's far more useful than I am when it comes to heavy stuff.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:53 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sarah Robles is cool. Holley Mangold, also a superheavy woman, is cool (though the media coverage of her has been all over the place in terms of positivity).

dirtyid, regarding Robles's prospects, she is by no means the top superheavy female in the world, but depending on the lifters others send she (and Mangold for that matter) could potentially be a contender for the bronze. No, she's nowhere near the totals of Lulu Zhou and Tatiana Kashirina, probably the two reigning female superheavies at the moment. But the point is neither are other competitors. Not to mention it is by no means certain that both Kashirina and Zhou will be at the Olympics. Countries are only allocated a limited number of spots and cannot send someone from every weight class. Given Kashirina's successes I think she's almost certain to go, but then again, officials may look at her relatively young age and decide to give that spot to someone older and more experienced. Zhou I have no idea, the talent pool in China is so wide and deep it's mostly a matter of choosing which classes they'd prefer to medal in as any lifter they choose is almost guaranteed a medal.

Anyway, my point is both Mangold and Robles have been making strides in their lifting since the Trials in March, and it is possible either of them could pull a total in the 260-270s. Which would be respectable for a third-place finish on the world stage. Yes, Valentin may lift only slightly less than Robles's best posted total, but remember that in general the female superheavy class is probably one of the least competitive female classes, so the totals necessary to medal are not going to be proportionally higher in comparison to the totals necessary to medal in lighter classes.

Robles, Mangold, heavier women get a ton of crap for their weight. Sadly, I think the stigma is even higher in the lifting world. Not only are they dealing with the historic macho, male-centered culture, but also with this weird obsession the lifting world has with telling women that lifting will give them great asses and not make them bulky. Mangold and Robles are not what most women want to look like, so plenty of people in the lifting world would rather sweep them under the rug because they're afraid they'll drive women away from the sport. Which honestly is just dumb, given that sexual objectification of women tends to be more of a factor in female self-deprecation and disillusionment with sport than celebration of a woman for her athletic talents and athletic talents only. There was a really excellent study I read documenting how women perceived female athletes and their own athletic abilities and bodies depending on whether the female athletes were sexualized or not. I can't find it right now though.

Re: Free Rent: if Robles were to move to the Olympic compound, she would need to leave her coach. This is not a small matter. There has been a lot of debate about the effectiveness of the weightlifting coaches at the Olympic Training Center (i.e. some athletes get worse when they go there). The hiring of Zygmunt Smalcerz has restored some confidence in the OTC, but most athletes still prefer to continue working with their own coaches who have brought them the success they have so far. Going to a new coach means a new program, possibly being pressured to change your technique, adopting new habits that may not work for you . . . It is impossible to overstate the importance of a good athlete-coach relationship where the coach understands your individual needs as an athlete and is able to create a program that provides continued improvements. If her choice is between free rent at the OTC and continued improvement (and possible medaling) I can understand why she would continue with her coach.
posted by schroedinger at 9:02 PM on June 29, 2012 [25 favorites]


Meanwhile, directly below the article is a link to animated GIFs that make Kate Upton's boobies bounce.

God, people.
posted by Madamina at 9:57 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


At point about the marketability of attractive athletes, the NBC site is heavily promoting a slideshow of 'Model Olympians,' which features some hot folks. I dont know if that counts as an endorsement, but it's pretty prominent on the site. Athletes that will draw eyeballs will draw sponsorships.
posted by troika at 10:41 PM on June 29, 2012


She has a blog BTW
http://prettystrongblog.blogspot.com/
posted by melissam at 12:10 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


@schroedinger, you've crunched the numbers so I'll concede. My impression is that the article is disingenuous to frame the argument in terms of body image when Roble and Mangold's odds at the podium rests primarily on the whom countries that dominate at lifting fields. If there were more medals available in weightlifting, and if these ladies could secure these medals without the whims of their competition's rosters, then they would get more attention and sponsorship regardless of size. I know they work hard and their resources are limited, but the reality is that athletes in fringe sports need to be extra exceptional to get noticed in America, especially considering stigma around weight.
posted by dirtyid at 12:55 AM on June 30, 2012


This reminds me of the bumper stickers that say, "If you are opposed to X, then don't get/do/support X." Pretty simple.

Thanks to schroedinger for a focused & cogent on topic response, & for highlighting the logic behind Robles opting out of the housing.

Clearly Robles works hard & has a personal goal. I'd bet every commenter in this thread has one of those right now. Why the hell else would we grind along every day if there wasn't some Bigger Thing we wanted to get to?

The fundraising target was $2500. Not $2.5M. Whatever happened to general community support - the kind that lends a hand when others need just a bit more to get wherever they're trying to go?

Help is not an easy thing to ask for.
posted by yoga at 6:13 AM on June 30, 2012


If there were more medals available in weightlifting, and if these ladies could secure these medals without the whims of their competition's rosters, then they would get more attention and sponsorship regardless of size.

Well, here's the thing. On the one hand, Olympic weightlifting is a little-known sport in the US, and I don't think there are any Oly lifting athletes who have major sponsorships. The fact that the US is pretty crappy at Oly lifting on the world stage doesn't help either. The article doesn't mention this, but it's quite possible the author has no idea about these facts. From the way the author talks about her lifts it's clear they don't even know how the sport works (for example, citing her total, the sum of two lifts, as the amount of weight she lifts at once). So like you said, it's hard to argue it's just her body that's the issue when nobody in the sport is getting money.

But on the other hand, Robles does encounter discrimination due to her weight even within her own community, so I do not think it's out of line to say even if she was on track for a gold medal she'd get the same level of sponsors as women from lighter weight classes. I mean, after she and Mangold won the two women's slots to the Olympics at the Trials there was honest discussion in the Olympic lifting community and weightlifting community in general that USAW (USA Weightlifting, the governing body of Olympic lifting) should drop one of them in favor of a lighter, more photogenic woman so the public wasn't "discouraged" from watching the sport and we didn't "hurt our PR". A lot of talk about how big they were, how they'd be better if they lost weight, women saying they'd never let themselves "get that out of shape" . . . People were saying this about our top two women! Having been in the community for years now, I can tell you these discussions have never arisen about male superheavies from our country or any others. But women superheavies face a lot of stigma about their weight. Then again, women from other weight classes also get accusations (again, from within the community) about looking too much like men; if an athlete is good and attractive inevitably there is commentary along the lines of "it's so wonderful she's managed to get strong while being so feminine". So it did not bother me that the article highlighted the body image issue, because it truly is a major factor in how the public responds to her.

If you want to get a better idea of the best possible scenario for PR for female superheavies, you can look at the press Mangold's received. She's had a little spot on HBO, a "True Life" episode on MTV. But they have all focused on her weight and what it's like to be "the big girl" and how Mangold deals with it, with her athleticism on the side. Thankfully, Mangold has an incredibly charismatic, upbeat personality and turns a message that could have been "Look at this sad fat girl" into "Life is awesome, my body is awesome, y'all can just deal with it." However I think it's telling that the public approach to her is as an oddity rather than someone to be admired for her passion and optimism.

---------------------

I also want to say, though I sound pretty down on the Olympic weightlifting community in general it is the most supportive lifting community of the ones I've encountered (strongman, powerlifting, Crossfit). The backlash against Robles and Mangold was a moment of ugliness in a community that is general pretty accepting without judgement of size. It is also worth mentioning that the ugliness definitely received some pushback from within the community, including from top coaches. And unlike other lifting sports, USAW does not actively avoid trying to promote women who don't fit a traditional definition of beauty--promotion is based on your rankings, period. The very fact that Robles and Mangold retained their spots is testament to that--I know of situations in other sports where the heavier female athletes are actively marginalized by their governing bodies in favor of the lighter ones.

For the most part, if you walk into any Oly lifting gym you'll encounter a low-key group happy and excited to have you there, no matter your shape, size, or age, and the focus will be on your lifts increasing and your health rather than what your body fat percentage is doing that day. Macho culture in Oly lifting in the US is much less of a factor than it is in sports like strongman and powerlifting, and Oly lifting doesn't have a weird obsession with creating essentially soft-core workout porn of hot female athletes like Crossfit does. I would recommend it to any woman (or man) interested in getting into competitive lifting.
posted by schroedinger at 8:23 AM on June 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


She is NOT really living in poverty. Or rather she is only technically living below the poverty line because she isn't working right now. I understand working would be difficult and I can appreciate her dedication. That doesn't change the basic fact though.

She is not living in poverty. She is not homeless. She is not going to bed hungry or even peckish. She is not going without necessities.

She is receiving help from her family and friends, discounts from local stores, money from the olympics, some undisclosed goods and/or money from PowerBar and more. Money and assistance which is rudely and ungratefully labeled "prayers and pity". She isn't living in luxury but that is her choice. A choice millions make when they are struggling to become 'X'. They sacrifice so that they can devote themselves to their goal, their dream.

No doubt there are many people who are truly living below the poverty lines. People who are suffering every night. People who would be offended at crying out against her so-called "poverty". I wonder how the 2nd strongest woman would feel if she was living in poverty - maybe she is.

Also Michael Phelps got a deal after he won Gold and did so amazing well. She is a member of the team but that is it for now. If she wins gold if she breaks record she will receive offers. Even now she should be able to get offers such as the one she has with PowerBar. Plus she can get sponsership, endorsement deals from local companies.

Of course now that she or her people have made this very public request she will probably be flooded with offers and donations. Too bad for those who are going to bed hungry that they don't have all her resources.
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:21 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how deeply engrained is the absurd idea that "everyone is entirely responsible for whatever happens" to him/her.

I wonder if people think that athletes (amateur,pro, whatever) actually were entirely informed that their income and existence was at risk, when they undertook their career path and that ,therefore, they all must be complete idiots who don't understand they'll have bills to pay, things to buy and so on..

I guess this is how people is taught/suggested to summarily dismiss complex realities that scare the shit out of them, as the next career that might tank in a second is theirs. But no no no, this will never happen to me, it's impossible because (insert unlikely rationalization).
posted by elpapacito at 9:35 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why the hell else would we grind along every day if there wasn't some Bigger Thing we wanted to get to?
inertia; fear
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:36 AM on June 30, 2012


I wonder how deeply engrained is the absurd idea that "everyone is entirely responsible for whatever happens" to him/her.

The responsibility we accept for our own actions, the more prepared we will be when shit happens.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:25 AM on June 30, 2012


Are we allowed to use the word "Olympics" without those little trademark or copyright chingie dingies?

Just asking.
posted by mule98J at 11:33 AM on June 30, 2012


No doubt there are many people who are truly living below the poverty lines.

What the hell is this I don't even... the poverty line is not some pure and moral distinction that only applies to some. It's a numerical distinction. If you make below $11 170 in income in 2012 in the continental United States, you are below the poverty line. Accepting charity for one reason or another from whatever source does not make your poverty less "real", whatever that means. Her current state of poverty does not appear to be chronic, but you and I don't really know that, and hypothetically speaking an athlete is one serious injury away from a chronic state of poverty, if they have no other means of income.
posted by mek at 1:14 PM on June 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


If only she'd dedicated her life to learning useful skills and marketable abilities instead of, you know, being able to lift a lot of weight at one time.

I have very little sympathy for poor athletes.
posted by dethb0y at 5:11 PM on June 30, 2012


mek: "No doubt there are many people who are truly living below the poverty lines.

What the hell is this I don't even... the poverty line is not some pure and moral distinction that only applies to some. It's a numerical distinction. If you make below $11 170 in income in 2012 in the continental United States, you are below the poverty line. Accepting charity for one reason or another from whatever source does not make your poverty less "real", whatever that means. Her current state of poverty does not appear to be chronic, but you and I don't really know that, and hypothetically speaking an athlete is one serious injury away from a chronic state of poverty, if they have no other means of income.
"

Surely you can see the difference between

someone choosing not to work. Being able to do so because others are paying for everything. Never going to bed hungry. Never really going without.

and someone who is forced to live below the poverty line. Someone who will go to bed hungry. Someone who will possibly die because they couldn't pay for air conditioning/heating.

My point is she is only living below the poverty line by a technicality. She is not truly in poverty. She is not suffering. My point is that the poverty line is merely a numerical distinction as you said. It means nothing in regards with her financial state. It means nothing with her need for additional aid.

Feeling bad for her is silly and misplaced. She is not in need of our "prayers and pity" as it was so disdainfully called. You could say that some heiress who does nothing but party as living below the poverty line if she chose not to work.

My point is that person who will have to see their child go to bed without proper food who is ignored by so many probably doesn't feel a lot of sympathy for this athlete. My point is there is someone living 2 blocks from your home who is suffering. feel bad for them. Help them. This woman will be just fine.
posted by 2manyusernames at 5:38 PM on June 30, 2012


This is not a poor-off where we line up all the poor people and judge them by their suffering to determine who gets our funds. If that were the case then we better pull out all the money we've donated to any charity ever and put it towards crippled mentally disabled orphans in Africa living in trash pits, or whomever counts as having The Worst Life In The World.

I think someone who displays Robles's dedication and willingness to go through shit for that dedication is worth respecting. Acknowledging that she's got it tough does not diminish the fact that other people have it tough as well. I'm not really sure your point in trotting out "The Starving Children in Africa" defense in this thread--do you do this in every thread that involves a person going through tough times, or do you just have a bee in your bonnet about this one?
posted by schroedinger at 6:45 PM on June 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apparently her brother is Nick Mangold--who signed a 7 year $54 million contract with the NY Jets.
posted by reiichiroh at 7:19 PM on June 30, 2012


Wrong strongest woman, reiichiroh.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:22 PM on June 30, 2012


Yeah...just realized that seconds later. That's what I get for coming back the article a few days later. Totally different. Robes/Mangold. Brainfart. For some reason I was thinking "adopted."
posted by reiichiroh at 7:24 PM on June 30, 2012


Interesting comment on her blog regarding BMI:

"At 5'10 and 275 lbs, now my body fat percentage is 34.8 That means 95.7 lbs of my body is fat but 179 of it is lean muscle. Take away all of my fat and leave only lean tissue which is organs, bones, and muscle, and I weight 179 lbs. Even at that weight, my BMI is considered over weight."
posted by duvatney at 7:43 AM on July 1, 2012


I'm curious about why having all that fat is helpful to being strong, technically.
posted by bleep at 7:28 PM on July 2, 2012


It does and it doesn't.

"Mass moves mass" is a catchphrase of the lifting community. It's a short way of saying that the more you weigh, the better your leverages for applying force to a bar and the more weight you can move. Given two athletes with the same amount of muscle mass but one with an extra 20lbs of body fat, the heavier one will probably be able to move more weight. Additionally, it's hard to gain muscle mass without putting on any fat--if you want to maximize muscle mass gain, then eat as much as possible and don't worry about how much fat you put on.

There's a sweet spot to fat gain, though. There's a certain point where having too much extra fat is going to slow down your ability to move around the bar; with Olympic lifting at least, superheavy lifters generally have to adopt less than ideal lifting technique simply in order to get the bar around their guts.

The "ideal" superheavy would be someone built from the ground up. The coach assesses the build of someone of normal bodyweight, decides they'd make a good super, and begins the years-long process of packing on muscle mass and slowly gaining additional fat to build an athlete who has maximized muscle mass gain without putting on fat so quickly that they've impeded their athletic mobility.* If you start with someone who's already fat, you run a higher risk of dealing with someone who already has mobility issues, a poor diet, or no prior athletic history. That's the "ideal" though, there are plenty of supers who were already heavy when they started lifting and so stayed in that category. The successful ones are generally like Mangold, where she's been heavy all her life but athletic all her life, so she's had plenty of time learning to work around her body's extra mass and use it to her advantage in sports.

If you're an athlete who starts out heavy it can also be tremendously difficult to drop weight while maintaining a high level of training. It is hellishly hard to lose fat AND maintain or gain muscle mass unless you're a rote beginner, and somebody like Robles is not a rote beginner. Most supers losing weight go into the process pretty carefully, judging whether any speed, mobility, or health gains that come form losing weight would compensate for any possible loss of strength.

*This is actually how the best sumo wrestlers are made. Sumo coaches prefer their athletes start out skinny and get fat over training, rather than taking someone already fat and trying to make them strong.
posted by schroedinger at 6:15 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


reddit Ask Me Anything by this athlete http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/wllob/iama_olympic_weightlifter_and_the_strongest_woman/
posted by mulligan at 1:53 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Olympic Weightlifter Sarah Robles Gets A Sponsor
posted by homunculus at 12:40 PM on July 17, 2012


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