Robles, Mangold earn Olympic women’s lifting spots

Holley Mangold was gearing up for the 2016 Olympics.

So much for that idea. Her time is now.

The 22-year-old sister of New York Jets center Nick Mangold and

fellow superheavyweight Sarah Robles qualified for the London Games

on Sunday at the women’s U.S. Olympic weightlifting trials.

”I came up really quickly,” Holley Mangold said. ”I’ve never

even been to a World Championship. I knew I had really great

competitors I was going against.”

Mangold and Robles dueled all day in the two lifts, snatch and

clean-and-jerk. Robles led after the snatch, with a best-of-three

lift of 114 kilograms to Mangold’s 110.

Mangold, who is from nearby Dayton and a member of the Columbus

Weighlifting Club, nailed a 145-kilogram clean-and-jerk to clinch

the second qualifying spot, just three kilograms behind Robles.

”This is what I’ve been working for, whether I knew it or not,

my entire life,” said the 24-year-old Robles, who is from Mesa,

Ariz. ”Everything that I’ve done, everything that’s happened to me

in my life, has helped me prepare for this moment and for my future

at the Olympics.”

Mangold said she was really nervous, but she was comforted by

the presence of her family. Her mother, father, grandparents, two

sisters and brother were on hand to support her.

A large crowd roared its approval during the competition, held

for the first time in conjunction with the annual Arnold Sports

Festival. Fifteen female lifters competed for the two spots.

Robles had aimed for the 2012 Olympics all along. She was part

of an American contingent that went to London on an Olympic test

run in December. They checked out the venue, the equipment, the

travel arrangements, even the food.

But she also learned something about herself.

”When I got there, I started feeling more like an Olympian,”

she said, a wide grin creasing her face. ”Like, this is a place I

can be, a place I want to be. It helped light a fire under my butt

a little bit and get me excited to go. It made it more real for

me.”

Mangold’s rise has been meteoric. Just over a year ago, she was

sleeping at coach Mark Cannella’s house in Columbus as she began

training with him. No one is more stunned by what she’s

accomplished in this last year than he is.

”Literally a month before this a year ago, I took Holley

over,” he said, fighting back his emotions. ”At that time she was

at a 220 (kilogram total for her two best lifts). She’s moved 35

kilos in one year. So she’s gone from a darkhorse to an Olympian in

that amount of time. What an amazing thing.”

One by one the challengers dropped out of the two Olympic

qualifying spots as the competition progressed, the biggest lifters

going last. The qualifiers were determined by a percentage of the

bronze-medal totals from the last five Olympics. Amanda Sandoval

from Ypsilanti, Mich., led for a brief time. Rizelyx Rivera of

Moorestown, N.J., also made a run at one of the two spots.

Katie Uhlaender, a Winter Olympics competitor in the skeleton,

failed in her bid to also qualify for this summer’s Games. She

successfully lifted just one of her six attempts.

In the end, it came down to the two superheavyweights.

Mangold calmed herself by taking rapid, shallow breaths as she

got ready to grab the bar.

”I was confident whatever my coach put on that bar I could

make,” she said.

Robles nailed a 144-kilogram clean-and-jerk on her third and

final attempt. She knew at that point she was assured of a return

trip to London. She clapped her hands – chalk flying up in a cloud

– and while the crowd cheered she thrust her arm up in

celebration.

Asked later why she hadn’t opted for something more patriotic

than the black-and-white outfit she wore, she laughed, turned

around and pointed to the bright red ribbon in her hair.

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