Cheryl Haworth has picked up a few words of Chinese that could help her communicate with her top competition in weight lifting at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The problem is, the words include the phrase "You can never have enough slave laborers," and she learned them from Bart Simpson.
OK, so maybe this isn't exactly in keeping with the Olympic spirit of international solidarity, but Haworth doesn't really plan to use the words anyway. "How do you know if they're true?" she asks with a laugh. "I heard them on The Simpsons."
Around the gym in Savannah, Georgia, where she lives, the 17-year-old Haworth goes by the nickname Fun. She merrily sings a Simpsons ditty about our most ineffective Presidents, rattles off the polysyllabic names of the body's most obscure muscles, knows most of Poe's "The Raven" by heart, and creates drawings so lifelike they resemble photographs.
Now a senior in high school, she is also the best American hope, man or woman, for an Olympic medal in weight lifting at the 2000 Games, which run from September 15 to October 1. Haworth is one of a small group of teenagers (see "Rising Stars," page 24) who are expected to be strong contenders in Sydney.
Women's weight lifting will be a medal sport for the first time this year, and, at 5 feet 9 inches, 300 pounds, Haworth will provide a riveting presence in the superheavyweight division with her size, agility, speed, balance, and strength. She took a bronze medal at the 1999 world championships and won a preliminary Olympic event in Sydney last spring, having deftly translated her raw power into the technique and velocity needed for success in international lifting.
FAST, FLEXIBLE, FORMIDABLE
Haworth can run the 40-yard dash in 5.5 seconds and leap 30 inches straight up from a standstill. She has the flexibility to do a full split, and jumps on and off 2 1/2-foot-tall wooden boxes to increase the fast-twitch explosiveness in her legs. "A lot of football coaches come in here, and I think they would die for someone that fast, flexible and strong," says Michael Cohen, Haworth's personal coach and the American women's coach in Sydney. "I've never seen another woman that strong."
A sickly child, Cheryl had her tonsils and adenoids removed when she was 6, and as she grew healthier, she began to gain weight, according to her mother, Sheila, who is a registered nurse. The mother consulted dietitians, but decided it wasn't proper to put a young girl on a diet. "When my daughter sits down and says she is still hungry, I'll feed her again," says Sheila Haworth. "I don't want her hating me or for this to be a battleground. I give her fat-free milk at home, fruit, good food. If she's going to be big, she'll be big." Officials have checked into Haworth's health, and their only concern is for a bulging disk in her back, a chronic weight-lifter problem.
Haworth started lifting four years ago to increase her strength for playing softball. On her first day, she brought 110 pounds to her chest "like it was a broomstick," says coach Cohen. Since then, she has shown remarkable progress, winning her division of women's weight lifting at last year's Pan American Games.
Haworth has lifted 264 pounds in the snatch and 319 in the clean and jerk--the two types of Olympic lifting. This combined weight of 583 pounds is about 20 pounds short of the world record. If she remains with the sport through 2004, says Cohen, he expects that she will be lifting 700 pounds.
Haworth has an IQ of 135, and like many highly intelligent kids, she says she becomes unenthusiastic about things that do not interest or challenge her. But weight lifting has captured her enthusiasm, and so has art. She recently won first place in a Savannah art competition with a pencil drawing of one of her training partners.
Weight lifting and art "both take a lot of concentration and technique, and they both force you to finish something," says Haworth. "In weight lifting, you are always improving. It's always structured. You never wonder if you're good or not."
In Sydney, she could be good enough to be called the strongest woman in the world.
Sydney will play host to the 2000 Olympic Games from September 15 through October 1. Here are some key facts about this year's event:
COUNTRIES PARTICIPATING: Over 200
ATHLETES PARTICIPATING: Over 10,000
COST OF THE GAMES: $1.4 billion
NUMBER OF SPORTS: 28 (two more than in 1996). They range from aquatics (diving, swimming, synchronized swimming, water polo) to wrestling (freestyle, Greco-Roman).
NEW SPORTS: Triathlon, tae kwon do.
NUMBER OF GOLD MEDALS: 300. The sport with the most is track and field, with 46. The sports with the least are baseball (men only) and softball (women only), with one each. There are 35 new medal events (and six have been discontinued since 1996). Among the new events: synchronized diving, trampoline, women's pole vault, women's water polo.
TV COVERAGE: NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC will provide more than 400 hours of coverage during the two weeks of the games. And Scholastic, joint publisher of UPFRONT with The New York Times, will have a show each weekday from 3 to 5 p.m. (ET/PT) on MSNBC called Scholastic at the Olympic Games.
JERE LONGMAN is a sportswriter covering the Olympics for The New York Times.
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|Title Annotation:||Cheryl Haworth, weight lifter|
|Publication:||New York Times Upfront|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Sep 4, 2000|
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