I met Cheryl Hayworth a couple years ago when she was shooting this film at the Burgener’s house and am excited to see the finished product not only because it contains many-a-topic of interest for me, but also because I genuinely respect Cheryl – as a person, and for what she has done as an athlete for the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Also, I want to know why she smokes cigars.
Cheryl is an Olympic weightlifter who has competed in three Olympic Games, winning the bronze medal in Sydney in 2000. She held the title of National Champion for 11 consecutive years. Weighing close to 300 pounds, she uses her size to her competitive advantage in a sport that has traditionally been the province of men. Cheryl entered the weightlifting world at age 13. By 15, she was the American national champion, and at 17 she competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the first Games that included a women’s weightlifting event.
Have you faced challenges fitting into prescribed notions of what you are “supposed” to look like or how you are “supposed” to behave? These are issues Cheryl faces daily. Although her large size is a plus on the platform as well as something she has to work to maintain, she admits to sometimes feeling unhappy in her body, recognizing that the world values people more if they’re smaller and that she doesn’t fit the social norm.
Why do you want to be strong? This is something she attempts to explain throughout the film, but says it isn’t easy to put a finger on. She has always been strong, even as a child, and now her strength is a tool she puts to use in her chosen sport. But being strong isn’t enough to get you an Olympic medal. As most of us know from experience, weightlifting is not just about heaving a weight over your head; it requires timing, flexibility, and knowing how to use inertia and gravity to make the weight move as if it is a part of your body. I am always amazed to see someone her size do these things so well, and I have seen her do them in person. It is spectacular.
How do you overcome mental and physical blocks and regain confidence? As in most sports, injuries are a risk, and Cheryl has suffered several torn ligaments over her career. After sustaining a traumatic injury at the 2003 Junior World Championships, she experienced a loss of confidence and had to work hard to rebuild her mental, as well as her physical, ability to lift weights.
What do you do when you have to give up the one thing that has defined you for over half your life? A career change? A chance at romance? Changing who you are physically? These are all issues Cheryl grappled with knowing her career was coming to an end and as she tried to figure out her new place in the world.
Strong! is the story of Cheryl’s weightlifting career, the rigors of training for competition, and her personal experience of being big in a culture that values women who are small. You are invited to join me at a special screening right here in San Diego! (And what great timing as the Olympics start within days of this event.)
Who: You & Me (especially women, girls, those who love weightlifting, budding sociologists, anyone who has grappled with similar issues or knows someone who has . . . I think that pretty much covers everyone.)
What: Screening of Strong! Lift Like a Girl
Where: Cinema Under the Stars, 4040 Goldfinch Street, 92103
When: Tuesday, July 24th @ 7:30pm
Why: Why not? What a great story that is full of topics we’re all interested in.
How: Reserve tickets online. There is a minimum number needed for the event to happen, and you will only be charged for your ticket ($15) if they meet the quota for viewers. There are only 8 days left for 45 people to reserve their tickets or the show won’t happen and I’ll be really disappointed.