“She had already played football so anything after that was, ‘Oh, okay,’ ” said her mother, Therese.
In a sport in which experience counts heavily — for all of the guttural screaming, the techniques for lifting and clearing are fairly technical — Mangold is a neophyte. She found her calling as a weightlifter only when she started training for the shot put at Ursuline College a couple of years ago, and initially set her sights on the 2016 Olympics. But she upped her loads by more than 70 pounds in the space of a year to become a surprise qualifier for the U.S. team.
Mangold’s goal is not just an Olympic medal; she wants a more sweeping victory than that. To her, a weightlifting platform is a stage to broaden the acceptable range of female athleticism, and she comes to it armed with an appealing lack of self-consciousness, and a smart, funny mouth with which she likes to make cracks about “the tiny girls.” She may lift very heavy objects, but she has a light humor with which she challenges preemptive assessments of body types.
“I think I’m feminine,” she said. “I don’t know what the singlet makes me look like. I probably look pretty goofy. But nobody looks good in a singlet, not even the tiny girls.”
The only thing she was self-conscious about during the competition was her epidermis-tight unitard — and only after she felt rip in warmups. She was afraid something else would go during the competition.
“I was afraid it was going to rip in the crotch or something,” she said. “That’s embarrassing.”
Mangold’s inexperience and bad wrist, along with an assortment of other injuries such as damaged knee cartilage and a creaky labrum that are the toll of the event, prevented her from contending for a medal. But the consensus is that she has champion potential next time around.
The current standard is China’s Zhou Lulu who claimed the gold medal and title of world’s strongest woman by lifting a record total of 333 kilograms, which for those of you at home is 734.1 pounds in American money.
As Mangold watched Zhou, she thought, “‘Holy cow, that’s a lot of weight.’ ” But then another thought replaced it: “One day I’ll beat you.”
For previous columns by Sally Jenkins, visit washingtonpost.com/jenkins.