How A 4-foot 11 Gymnast Transformed Into A World-Class Weightlifter

By David Briggs
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Alyssa Ritchey may be 4-foot-11 and weigh just 108 pounds but she is one of Team USA’s tallest hopes in weightlifting. As David Briggs reports, “If she gets the occasional double take — aren’t weightlifters supposed to be big, burly men? — no sweat. Ritchey loves shattering tired old stereotypes.”

The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

Like Alyssa Ritchey always imagined as a gymnast growing up on a cattle farm in northwest Ohio, she hopes to be in Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

There is but one little twist.

In her dreams now, she will not be there on the bars.

She will be there bending them.

Yes, Ritchey, signing in at 4-foot-11, 108 pounds, is one of Team USA’s tallest hopes in weightlifting.

How cool is that?

“I had the Olympic dream,” the 29-year-old Pettisville native said. “I just didn’t know it would come about in the sport I’d least think.”

I met Ritchey the other day at her home on a quiet street in Perrysburg, where neighbors used to wonder why she and her boyfriend had the only cars parked outside in the snow.

Inside their two-car garage is her makeshift gym.

Six mornings a week, after brewing a pot of coffee, Ritchey heads to the open-air sanctum, flips on some Latin music, then spends the next two hours or so pumping unholy amounts of iron.

Nothing to see here, everybody, just the world-class athlete next door lifting the equivalent of a refrigerator above her head.

In Olympic weightlifting — one of nine sports that dates to the first modern Olympiad in Greece in 1896 — there are two lifts: the snatch and clean and jerk.

In the first, competitors raise the bar from the ground to above the head in one fell movement. In the second, they bring the bar to their chest, then jerk it above the head in a two-part action. Their score is based on the combined total of the two lifts.

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