Last week, graduate student Gwendolyn A. Sisto G won a silver medal representing MIT at the National Collegiate Championships for Olympic weightlifting. Sanctioned by USA Weightlifting, a member of the United States Olympic Committee, the competition featured college students from across the country competing for a medal and a spot on Team USA.
Sisto competed in the 63 kg division for women in the snatch and clean-and-jerk events. These events, the only two events for weightlifting contested in the Olympics, both consist of fast explosive movements, and are the most efficient ways of lifting a bar overhead. After performing in both events, Sisto came in a very close second, lifting a total of 169 kg, just short of three time National Collegiate gold medalist Megan Kranz from Louisiana State University, who lifted a total of 171 kg. The silver medal win gives Sisto an official spot on Team USA. Having just received the official invitation, she will represent MIT and the USA in Taiwan in July at the World University Championships, a biannual event featuring multiple sports.
Weightlifting as a sport dates back millennia. Ancient Greek sculptures depict men lifting and throwing weights, and Chinese texts tell about the lifting requirements of male soldiers, according to USA Weightlifting. The sport has been included in the Olympics since the first games in 1896 and continues to be a well-respected sport to this day. However, women’s Olympic weightlifting was not added to the Olympics until the 2000 Summer games in Sydney, Australia. The categories for men and women are based upon body weight; the men are split into eight weight categories, and women into seven.
Sisto began lifting in middle school, making multiple junior teams. She took a break from Olympic weightlifting after giving birth to her daughter in 2003, but started up her training again in 2005. Since then, she has continued to train many hours a week, and participated in the 2008 Olympic Trials. When asked why she chose Olympic weightlifting, she told me that, “Since I was four years old, I wanted to be an Olympic Champion. Weightlifting was the first sport to pique my interest. I like the absolute aspects of the sport. You win because you lifted more than your competition, [and there is] very little subjectivity.”
In addition to studying at MIT as a graduate student in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, she does a minimum of nine workout sessions per week. “An elite athlete needs at least 500 workouts per year,” said Sisto. With hopes of going to the 2012 Olympic games in London, Sisto will continue to train hard as she works towards her next competition in July as part of Team USA. Sisto trains at Risto Sports, which she founded along with expert coach Ivan Rojas. Risto Sports will be holding a fundraiser to help raise money for Sisto’s traveling expenses for the World University Championships.