Woman asserts power with weightlifting career


April 04, 2000|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SUZANNE HARTWIG is petite, blond, charming -- and a national champion power lifter. Only 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighing a mere 105 pounds, she can "dead lift" 320 pounds.

The Crofton resident holds the American record in the "squat," lifting 325 pounds. She holds state records in Maryland, Virginia and South Dakota in all three power-lifting categories: squat (picking up the barbells from a squat position), dead lift (bending and lifting them) and bench press (lifting from a bench).

How did a small-town girl from South Dakota become a championship power lifter?

Hartwig, 31, says she discovered her talent when she was in seventh grade.

A bunch of friends had gathered, just "hanging out," and some of the boys were trying to lift a set of 100-pound barbells. But they weren't having any luck. The girls were laughing and teasing them.

Finally, one of the boys said, "It's not so easy. You try it!" Just for fun, Hartwig said, "OK!" She had never lifted weights before. But she went over and lifted the barbells. "Whoa!" she remembers thinking in surprise, "I can do this!"

But weightlifting was not a girl's sport. In high school, Suzanne joined the track team. As part of her training, she did weight work. But her coach told her that it was not a sport for girls. And that was that.

At South Dakota State University, Suzanne majored first in engineering, then in mathematics. As a senior, "Sioux-Z" (a nickname that recognizes her South Dakota roots) encountered weightlifting again.

She realized she had natural talent. But this time, she worked with a group of people who accepted and encouraged the idea of women participating in the sport.

Suzanne worked hard and flourished in the field of power lifting. She became so involved in her sport that once she had received her college degree, she decided to focus on developing her athletic career. She moved to Maryland, where she became a nanny by day and by night trained in a power-lifting facility in Beltsville known to lifters around the world.

For more than seven years, Suzanne has improved her strength and technique, competing successfully in local and national championships. She has been a member of the elite team representing the United States at the last two International Power Lifting Federation Women's World Powerlifting Championships, and is training for her third -- next month in Argentina.

The sport is different from Olympic weightlifting because in power lifting, the weights are not raised over the athlete's head. Thousands of power lifters compete in tournaments around the world, culminating in the world championships every two years.

During the 1998 world championships in Norway, Suzanne won sixth place in her weight category. She hopes to do better this year. Working toward that goal means months of intense training, disciplined exercise and diet and constantly trying to improve and perfect lifting techniques.

Power lifting is not a sport of superstars. There are no million-dollar prizes for winning a competition. But Suzanne plans to continue her dedication to the sport as she grows older. She knows that strength training provides a basis for lifelong good health, and she has formed deep friendships with other lovers of the sport.

Her eyes sparkle with excitement at the challenge of constantly improving herself. When she is in a competition and everything comes together so that she knows she's nailed a great lift, her face breaks into a smile that lights up a hall.

After the world championships next month, Suzanne plans to focus on local competitions. She gave up her nanny job about seven months ago, taking up a career as a massage therapist.

Bundle Sunday

It's April: time for spring cleaning, to store winter clothes and bring out the cottons, shorts and bathing suits. At this time of year, many of us find in our closets clothes that we won't be using, even though they are in good condition. The St. Vincent de Paul Society is sponsoring Bundle Sunday this weekend to help those clothes find a good home.

Trucks will be waiting in the parking lot of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church in Crofton to collect used clothing before and after all weekend Masses -- 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m., 9: 30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12: 30 p.m. Sunday.

Gather items in securely tied plastic bags. Donations are tax-deductible and will help the St. Vincent de Paul Society assist homeless and needy people.

If you would like to donate large items, such as furniture, call 410-276-7600.

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