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Weight in Gold

Wilmington club promotes olympic-style weightlifting

The WILMINGTON WEIGHTLIFTING CLUB is the largest USA Weightlifting-sanctioned club in the state.

Looking to promote Olympic weightlifting in Southeastern North Carolina, club coach WALT NEUBAUER says there are about sixty members, with over half of them being women. Olympic weightlifting is more about form and less about poundage, he points out.

As far as training goes, Neubauer says it is a fun and encouraging environment in which members can be coached in any way needed.

“The team is extremely supportive of newcomers because we all remember what it was like walking into a strange new sport and gym,” he says. “I feel blessed to say that we really do have what other gyms claim to have: a supportive community of people who encourage one another because we all have common goals.”

Competitions provide an opportunity for the state’s weightlifting community to come together. The club offers multiple meetings at its gym, 6427 Windmill Way, throughout the year and travel to other cities to compete on local and national levels. The Wilmington Weightlifting Club hosted the North Carolina Weightlifting Championships in October, during which the group won its fourth, consecutive state championship. It also hosted a 2018 Wilmington Open on January 13. The next meet in Wilmington will be the 2018 Spring Open on May 12.

State, national, and international competitors regularly train at the club’s gym, and the group hosts camps with Olympic team members. It has won over forty national and international medals and holds multiple national champions.

Neubauer says he enjoys weightlifting for the health benefits, adding that it also has dramatically improved his life.

“Honestly, it has changed my life so much for the better. I get to work with some great people and help them to achieve their goals,” Neubauer says.

One of the club’s members, LINDSEY KARKOS, joined without having ever competed in sports before.

“It wasn’t long until I was hooked and wanted to work towards competing at the highest levels nationally,” she says. “There was never any pressure, and if I ever chose to just weightlift recreationally, I’d still be a part of the WWC (Wilmington Weightlifting Club) because there is nowhere better in terms of coaching, community, and atmosphere.”

Training focuses on improving the athletes in terms of strength, technical precision, and longevity, Karkos says.

Rather than wasting time rushing someone to take on heavy loads, the sport’s true intent is to keep teammates healthy so that they can use their technique to help them grow and continually achieve new goals.

“Training is challenging, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally,” Karkos says.

Weightlifting has impacted her life in a variety of ways. “It changed the way I view my body, my mind, my strength, my grit, my determination and tenacity,” Karkos says. “It changed my level of ambition, diminished my fear of the unknown, and convinced me that I am capable of anything I set my sights on.”

Karkos says she also enjoys the inclusiveness of the sport.

“Every body type, age, ability level, and background (is) included, embraced, and appreciated,” she says. “We are all in this together … I wish everyone could get an opportunity to train in such an enabling environment and tap into that strength that they never knew they had.”

ESTELLE ROHR, another club member, also sees weightlifting as an outlet for body acceptance.

“I’ve always struggled a bit with body image, and through weightlifting, I’ve learned that it’s OK to be strong,” she says.

Rohr says she loves the welcoming feeling of walking into the gym, knowing she doesn’t have to look a certain way. After years of gymnastics and cheerleading, Rohr has found a home in weightlifting.

“I’m grateful for what I learned in those sports and the opportunities I had, but I think I’ve found a sport that fits me a little better than those two,” she says. “I sometimes wish I would’ve known about this sport sooner and grown up with it more.”

Rohr says she is glad to be a role model for some of the younger lifters, especially the female members. She encourages other women to join and tells them that it doesn’t have to be as competitive as it appears.

“The best part is that you make your goals, and you control how much you put in,” she says. “If you just want to do it for fun, then do it for fun. If you want to hardcore compete and make an international team, train hard and make those teams.

“I truly believe weightlifting can benefit anyone as long as it’s done correctly,” Rohr adds, “and I’m so very happy to be where I am now.” 


To view more of photographer Erik Maasch's work, go to www.websta.me/n/emaasch.

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