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It’s 5 p.m., sophomore Margaret Ruhlman stands in her gym, a barbell sits at her feet. A thin layer of chalk covers her hands and striped blue and white tape provides support around her wrists. Reaching down for the bar, she knows that the work she puts in now will only make her stronger in the future.
She attempts a snatch; the bar gets to her shoulders then slams to the ground. Today, Ruhlman’s coach, Boris Urman, wants her to lift 95 percent of her maximum competition weight. Ruhlman usually only lifts 90 percent during practice, but she needs to increase her weight if she wants to keep getting better. She tries again, the bar along with the 62 kg it carries flies above her head. The bar slams to the gym floor and Ruhlman moves on to the next set of exercises.
Lifting is part of Ruhlman’s everyday routine. On Aug. 1, Ruhlman ramped up her training, and set a new goal of participating in the 2020 Olympic games. Since the goal was set, Ruhlman has spent her afternoons from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bootcamp Fitness KC working with coaches Jacob Gardner and Boris Urman.
Ruhlman has made great advances since she was first introduced to weightlifting in 2014 by her best friend, and current Sion sophomore, Isabelle Ianni. Ruhlman and Ianni began doing crossfit to become better athletes and spend time as friends together.
“I don’t know if I ever expected her training for the Olympics,” Ianni said. “I knew that she was passionate about lifting and crushing her meets, but I didn’t know at first that she had the Olympics in mind.”
Crossfit classes focus on exercises that keep the athletes constantly in motion. Ruhlman originally worked out five days a week with the goal of getting in better shape for volleyball. This changed in August 2015 when Ruhlman decided to transition to competitive weightlifting. Ruhlman’s coach Jacob Gardner saw her natural strength as potential, he then convinced her to give weightlifting an attempt.
“I was really focused on volleyball and was thinking about joining a club team, but that never happened because I was so focused on crossfit and weightlifting,” Ruhlman said.
A year since making the decision, Ruhlman has competed in six United States Weightlifting Association sanctioned meets. She typically finishes first out of 15 girls competing in her weight class. Ruhlman’s last meet was held at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe.
“When she first started, I thought it was just a phase,” Ruhlman’s mom Suzanne Ruhlman said. “It really hasn’t hit us until just recently that she has set some goals and she is meeting them.”
The tournaments that Ruhlman competes in now are all located relatively close to Kansas City. A meet has never taken her farther than Onaga, Kan. Participating in the Olympics means that Ruhlman will have to be competitive at international tournaments. International tournaments have been in Russia and the country Georgia, with up to 150 competitors in each weight class.
Ruhlman began ramping up her workouts at the beginning of September. In preparation for more competitive tournaments, Ruhlman began to work with her current coach, Urman. Urman was head coach of the Soviet National Weightlifting team for 14 years and has coached U.S. Olympians. He has coached athletes to wins at the Olympics, Pan American Games, Junior World Championships and Collegiate Championships.
“He has such a broad scope on weightlifting,” Gardner said. “He makes our training ability that much better.”
According to Gardner, Ruhlman is doing the things inside and outside of the gym that are necessary to get to the Olympics. Weightlifters have to eat enough, sleep, and stay hydrated to keep them ready for the vigorous workouts.
“Anyone can come to the gym, lift heavy stuff and sweat a lot,” Gardner said.“It’s the things you do when you’re not [at the gym] that makes the difference between an olympian and someone who’s not.”
For Ruhlman her work will come into play February 23-26 at the Junior National Championships when she will get the chance to make an impression on a US International team scout. According to her, this opportunity is why she trains so intensely. Ruhlman hopes her performance there will earn her a spot on the U.S. International team.
Ruhlman believes that it’s crucial for her to be working out every day. Her dedication extends into missing family time. In the past Ruhlman has said that she is willing to stay behind and train even when her family goes on vacation.
“[Margaret’s dad and I] obviously do not like that she is not with us,” Suzanne Ruhlman said. “Although we completely support her goal of making it to the Olympics.”
If Ruhlman is recruited for the national team she would have to opportunity to travel and compete with the U.S. team. Training at the U.S. National Olympic Training Center in Boulder, Colo. would also be required for Ruhlman. The training and competitions would cause her to miss weeks of school, but would make it substantially easier for her to compete in Tokyo.
“My family is talking about going somewhere for spring break, but I take no days off and I don’t want any days off,” Ruhlman said.
Even though she is only a month into her Olympic training routine, her coach says it is very likely that she will be on the 2017 U.S. International team roster. Until then, Ruhlman plans to keep training and getting better so she can have the best shot possible at the Olympic trials.
“I spend a lot of time [at the gym],” Ruhlman said. “This gym is basically my second home.”