You may have seen Mattie Rogers lighting up the world weightlifting stage in recent years. You may even be one of her 476,000+ Instagram followers. Already World University, American Open, National University, and National Champion, what’s certain is that this 22-year-old is destined for even bigger things in the sport.
The question is, how far can she go at the 2017 IWF World Championships in Anaheim next week?
We spoke to Mattie ahead of her trip to California to find out how she got into weightlifting, her pain at missing out on Rio 2016, and what it means to be the inspiration of a new generation of female athletes.
Welcome to weightlifting
Born in Apopka, Florida, Mattie Rogers entered the world of sport in a traditional way. “I started gymnastics aged 2, and carried on with it for 10-12 years,” she recalls.
Later came competitive cheerleading. Weightlifters may scoff at this, but those in the know understand cheerleading requires immense strength, coordination and flexibility – three things fundamental to Olympic lifting. This, as well as the gymnastics, served as a great foundation when she discovered weights. “I think gymnastics helped me the most,” Mattie says. “It developed my basic overall strength and coordination from a young age.”
At just 17, Mattie became enamoured with the rapidly emerging sport of CrossFit, and it was through this that she began to reveal a talent for Olympic lifting.
“I actually felt I wasn’t particularly good at lifting weights,” she remembers. “I preferred the bodyweight movements that echoed my days as a gymnast. But what I loved about weightlifting, and still love, is how technical it is – how you must focus on the small things to get that edge.”
CrossFit soon took a backseat to lifting. And as for cardio? Well… “we weightlifters laugh at the thought of cardio!”
The Olympic dream
In 2016, Mattie’s hopes of making the USA Olympic Team were crushed at Trials. Jenny Arthur, Sarah Robles and Morghan King were selected to represent their country at Rio, leaving Mattie deflated. “I was very bitter for a very long time,” she admits, “but not with anyone but myself.”
Did this put an end to her dream of competing at the next Olympics? Far from it. “To go and sit in the stands and watch what I could have been doing has motivated me to be smarter this time around.”
And with time comes experience. Mattie has learned that to perform on the world stage, she doesn’t need to be on peak form for all four years of the quad. “By the time of the Rio Olympic Trials, I was burned out by overtraining. Now, I know I don’t have to reach my peak until the performances that really count,” she explains.
2017 World Champion?
Before Tokyo 2020 Trials become a reality, there is the small matter of competing at this year’s IWF World Championships.
Mattie enters Anaheim with a total of 239kg, just below Egypt’s impressive Sara Samir Ahmed, Taipei’s Wang-Tung Hung, and Colombia’s Leidy Solís (of whom Mattie is a big fan and against whom she will be competing in the Female 69kg). This category might appear to be a stacked card, so Mattie will have to reach her peak and use the energy of the crowd to be in with a chance of a medal.
With the Championships taking place in California, the USA team can expect a warm reception and fantastic support. For Mattie, some extra encouragement is on hand. “My mom is coming to watch me lift for thefirst time,” she says with a smile.
Inspiring female athletes
Does Mattie feel the pressure of responsibility? “I don’t think anyone should compare themselves to anyone else,” Mattie says. “People probably see me on social media as an unconventional type of girl, and I hope that inspires them not to worry about what other people think and to simply do their own thing.”
The female roster for the 2017 World Championships is impressive, and is indicative of increased female participation in the sport as a whole. As more women enjoy greater exposure in the discipline, the spotlight will naturally fall upon the biggest personalities.
With a social media following worthy of the biggest sports stars, Mattie Rogers is certainly one of these.
Follow Mattie’s progress at the 2017 International Weightlifting World Championships next week on IWF social channels.