Holley Mangold will compete in the 2012 London Olympics just three years after taking up weightlifting

Holley Mangold, an extremely inspirational young woman, is a name most people were probably unfamiliar with this time a year ago. Mangold, who stands at 5-foot-8 and weighs in at 374 pounds, is a fierce competitor and a total force to be reckoned with. Her athletic career burgeoned in high school when she became the first female non-kicker to play in an Ohio Division III high-school football game. She went on to play offensive lineman all four years, including some playing time in a championship game. This accomplishment alone is enough to give Mangold the notoriety and respect most can only dream of. However, for Mangold, it was nowhere near close to enough. Mangold claims she knew from a young age that the Olympics were in her future – she just did not know how she was going to get there.

While she joked in a recent interview with Julie Foudy that her initial passion came in the form of “gymnastics,” it is clear to us all that her body “had other plans” for her. This twist in fate is making Holley one of the most talked about competitors in the world of women’s super heavyweight lifting, a sport that arguably deserves more recognition.

Most skeptics pegged Mangold a likely hopeful for the 2016 Olympics; however, she proved that dedication, focus and drive were more pervasive than naysayers’ assumptions. Olympic Weightlifting is a sport that is filled with misconceptions; while Mangold’s size may look advantageous to the naked eye, speed is much more vital to the Snatch and Clean & Jerk than sheer strength.

Offering some key insight into the sport, Mangold confesses, “If you lift the weight perfectly, with your back tight, pushing off the floor like you’re pushing through the floor with the bar close to your body, bringing your hips in with a force of unbelievable-ness,” she explains, “and plant into the weight, controlling it upward, not outward — it creates this beautiful, wonderful, weightless feeling. No matter what the weight is on the bar, it will feel weightless if you do it right.”

Even more powerful than her ability to snatch (one of the sport’s most difficult lifts in which you maneuver the bar from the ground to overhead in just one movement) over 240 pounds is her gregarious personality and admirable sense of self. She brings a new life to the sport by proudly representing it despite some bumps in the road along the way. Initially ridiculed for her size, even amongst fellow female competitors, Mangold was easily able to win over her critics by establishing that her own goals and love for the sport are all that matters.

Older brother and New York Jets All-Pro Center, Nick Mangold, showed his support while attending her Olympic trials and expressed enthusiasm as he watched her earn her spot for the London Games. The following morning, Nick tweeted “Congrats to my sister, Holley, for making the US Olympic team last night!”

(Photos Courtesy of AP Photo/Victoria Will)