DeKALB – Kristina Robinson describes herself as clumsy and unathletic and she has never been musically or artistically talented.
But she can lift a barbell, a skill that has taken her hobby of Olympic weight lifting to new heights.
In mid-March, Robinson will travel to Bucharest, Romania, to compete with Team USA at the International Weightlifting Federation Junior World Championships.
Although Robinson calls Olympic weight lifting “her hobby,” she trains six days a week for two to three hours a day.
When not training and practicing for the competition, Robinson, who grew up in Malta and graduated from DeKalb High School in 2018, also is a full-time student and works as a waitress at PJ’s Courthouse Tavern in Sycamore. Robinson is a sophomore at Northern Illinois University, majoring in public health and minoring in biology.
There will be a fundraiser at PJ’s Courthouse Tavern, 202 W. State St. in Sycamore, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, to help Robinson get to Bucharest. Proceeds from the 50/50 raffle and drink sales will be put toward her trip to Junior Worlds.
Robinson met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to discuss Olympic weight lifting, Team USA and the upcoming Junior World Championships.
Milton: What is Olympic weight lifting?
Robinson: There are two movements in Olympic weight lifting – snatch and clean and jerk. Snatch is a fluid movement over the head. Clean and jerk is a two-part movement, lifting the barbell to your shoulders and then jerking it overhead to arm’s length. Snatch and clean and jerk are two specific types of lifting.
Milton: How did you first get involved with Olympic weight lifting?
Robinson: I started Olympic weight lifting two-and-a-half years ago and have been competing since February 2018. … I first did weight lifting and conditioning in high school as part of my gym class. A friend introduced me to weight lifting. She did it for strength training for soccer. Then, I started going to the gym after work and I really liked it.
Milton: Tell me more about joining Team USA.
Robinson: After competing at the national level and putting up a certain total of my snatch and clean and jerk numbers, I was contacted by Team USA. My best total was at the American Open in Daytona, Florida, in September of last year. My international squad standing was 186. I was contacted by email in mid-December, notifying me I could be a part of Team USA if I was interested. There are certain rules I have to follow and have random drug tests.
Milton: What are you most excited for as a member of Team USA?
Robinson: I am looking forward to my first international meet and meeting the other members of Team USA. Traveling abroad is completely new to me, especially since I will be going alone, without family and my coaches. I will be in Bucharest, Romania, with the head coaches and members of Team USA for seven days competing at Junior Worlds. My only trip out of the country was to the Bahamas as a senior year trip with my friends. I’m excited to travel, train, see the city, watch my other teammates and compete in my first international meet representing the USA.
Milton: How is Olympic weight lifting different from other sports?
Robinson: It’s not cardio based, it’s endurance, strength and technical based. It’s about perfecting the technical aspects of your lifts. You’re working on constant muscle memory, jerk recoveries, strengthening your back, making sure your feet are in the right position and the barbell is past your head. Training cycles are usually six to 12 weeks. You’re trying to max out and get your best numbers.
Milton: What do you like the most about Olympic weight training?
Robinson: I am very clumsy and unathletic outside of Olympic weight lifting. I mean, I did sports in high school, like track and softball, but weight lifting is a completely different type of sport. You have no teammate, you’re your own motivation. It’s one of the sports with the lowest injury weights. A barbell is an object, not a living thing. It will only hurt you if you let it. You have to remember that you have more strength than a barbell does.
Milton: Are there stereotypes you’d like to dispel?
Robinson: It’s not body building. It’s not really about muscle, it’s about learning the movements and technique. It’s a lot of fun, it’s something new and challenging. I love that anyone can do it, men and women, young or old. Half of our gym is women. It was a very male-dominated sport years ago, but now it’s not. There are a lot of women involved. There’s not a lot of stigma around it anymore for women to compete, it’s 2020.
Milton: Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Robinson: I would like to say thank you to my coaches, mentors, my family and friends and the other athletes at my gym, Prairie State Barbell, for supporting and believing in me. I don’t think I could do any of it without having such a great support team.
To support Robinson as she travels to compete with Team USA at the Junior World Championships, visit her Go Fund Me page, www.gofundme.com/f/jawrb7-junior-worlds. Learn more about Olympic weight lifting by following Robinson’s Instagram, kristinaa.robinsonn.