When Megan Poole took up competitive weight lifting as a freshman, it started as hobby. Four years later, the sport has changed the path of her early adulthood.
Poole, who recently graduated from Chestatee High, will compete in the World Junior Weightlifting Championships in Penang, Malaysia.
The competition takes place from June 30 to July 7, and Poole will participate in the 69 kilogram weight class in the clean, jerk and snatch events. While her goal is to use the event to set personal records, it’s all part of a bigger picture.
Poole’s ultimate goal is to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“After (Malaysia), the next step is more events,” Poole said. “Competing internationally, I’ve learned I’m just competing against Americans, but more so other nations.
“I’m honored to represent my country.”
Poole is going to great lengths to achieve her ultimate goal. She’s decided to attend the University of Colorado because it’s near the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. At the center, she’ll train regularly with Olympic athletes and hopefuls while being coached by weightlifting legend Zygmunt Smalcerz, the 1972 Olympic Champion from Poland. She’ll also compete collegiality for Colorado.
Not a bad path for someone who at first was against the idea of weightlifting. However, she was encouraged by her parents and War Eagles football coach Stan Luttrell to take up the sport because of her superior physical abilities previously demonstrated in gymnastics. She eventually gave weightlifting a shot, and pretty soon her daily routines changed. She went on a strict diet. Her workout regimen increased. But she started seeing results.
“It became a lifestyle,” she said.
She’s now a national champion, having won the 2008 Junior National Championships in Orlando for the 14-15-year-old age group, 58K weight class. She won again in 2009 in the 15-17-year division. She’s competed in Chile.
Next stop: Malaysia.
She’ll begin training for the World Juniors in Colorado later this week before heading to Malaysia on June 24. She realizes the competition she’s up against and said she’s not concerned with taking a first place finish. Instead, her goals are to achieve personal records in the clean jerk, which would be 110 kilos, and the snatch, with a goal of 85 kilos.
“I’m pretty close, I just have to get my legs a little stronger,” she said.
To fund the trips to competitions, Poole relies on sponsorship from local businesses, as well as the community. She’s raises money through her website, www.meganpoole.org.
All the work she puts in, all the money raised is going toward the hope of an eventual Olympic bid. For that to become a reality, Smalcerz has set lofty benchmarks for her to reach.
He said she’ll need to increase her weightlifts 15-25 kilos each year to be ready by the 2016 Olympics. By that time, she will be 23.
“It will be a lot easier (to reach the goal) because I’ll be in Colorado training with Olympians,” she said. “They give me advice, and they talk to me like I’m one of them.”
Luttrell agrees that, with the opportunity Poole has in Colorado, she has a realistic shot at one day becoming an Olympian.
“She’s one of the best female weightlifters in America,” he said. “They wouldn’t be taking her in at Colorado if they didn’t see her potential. It’s one of the best environments to be in because everyone (at the training center) is working toward the Olympics. It’s a big deal.
“I think having her sights set on 2016 is a very realistic goal as long as she continues to progress.”
To donate to Megan's cause, please visit www.meganpoole.org.