Taking On the Heavy Lifting

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Ali Ludwig competes in the USA Weightlifting National Championships and is keeping her eye on Tokyo 2020.

Ali Ludwig shows one method of lifting a weight bar during a visit to Cherrystones restaurant in Gardena. Ludwig, 23, will compete next month at the 2015 USA Weightlifting National Championships in Dallas. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

Ali Ludwig shows one method of lifting a weight bar during a visit to Cherrystones restaurant in Gardena. Ludwig, 23, will compete next month at the 2015 USA Weightlifting National Championships in Dallas. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA

Weightlifting is all about one moment. A moment of strength, speed, flexibility and technique that is required to lift hundreds of pounds from the ground to above one’s head. Ali Ludwig knows all about this. The 23-year-old Rolling Hills Estates resident will be competing next month at the 2015 USA Weightlifting National Championships in Dallas.

“I fell in love with weightlifting. People think it’s crazy,” Ludwig said. “We train so many hours just for that one moment, we probably only have less than a one minute.”

“I’ve always been strong. My auntie always tells me the story when I was 2 1/2, she was taking a shower and I had moved this 25-pound dumbbell,” Ludwig said, as she sipped some water at Cherrystones, the Gardena restaurant owned by her uncle, Leonard Kim.

Approximately 225 athletes, representing America’s elite weightlifters, will compete. Although Ludwig has only been training in the sport for a little over a year, she has already joined the top ranks. She will be competing in the super heavyweight division, which is classified as women who are 165 pounds and above.

“I’m one of the lighter girls in the weight class, the heavyweights that I compete against are 160 kilos so they weigh over 300 pounds,” she said.

The current world record holder in Ludwig’s division is Tatiana Kashirina of Russia who lifted a combined 348 kilos (767.2 pounds) during the world championships last November.

In competition, the athletes perform two types of lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk. They are given three attempts in each lift.

“A good lift is considered to be when you have complete lockout, your arms cannot bend at all,” Ludwig explained. “They take your two best lifts and combine them for the total.”

Ali Ludwig lifts 108 kilograms (238 pounds) in the clean and jerk at the American Open, on Dec. 14, 2014 in Washington D.C. She placed fourth in the meet, which was her first national competition. (Photo courtesy Hookgrip)

Ali Ludwig lifts 108 kilograms (238 pounds) in the clean and jerk at the American Open, on Dec. 14, 2014 in Washington D.C. She placed fourth in the meet, which was her first national competition. (Photo courtesy Hookgrip)

To qualify for Nationals, Ludwig had to lift 205 kilograms (451.9 pounds).

“I hit 210 (462 pounds),” she said.

Ludwig trains at Waxman’s Gym in Lawndale, under the guidance of her coach Sean Waxman. Waxman, who trained with famed weightlifting coach Bob Takano, saw Ludwig’s potential when she came to the gym to train in Crossfit.

“She’s a great athlete, she has a great mental approach to training and competing. She’s got all the things that one would need to be successful in the sport,” Waxman said.

“The activity itself is incredibly demanding, but it’s also incredibly mundane so it requires somebody that doesn’t mind being consistent. When you’re tired and hurting, when things don’t feel good, you put your head down and do the work, it’s a grind.”

Ludwig trains at Waxman’s Gym five days a week, in addition to her full-time job at Trader Joe’s. She said the grueling hours of training are necessary to build up strength and learn proper technique.

“It’s a very technical sport. If you’re technique is not on point you can break a wrist,” she said.

Ludwig said the sport has allowed her to be more self-confident with identity as a strong, muscular woman. She even created a Twitter hashtag to describe one of her best attributes: #teamthighs.

“I remember growing up people would say, ‘Oh it’s not ladylike to be able to arm wrestle the guys.’ Now I’m more comfortable being strong and being OK with it,” she said.

Ludwig is now in the final weeks of preparation before the competition on Aug. 13. She said on the day of a meet, she prefers to be left alone as she focuses on the goal at hand.

While she is still learning the sport, Ludwig is looking ahead towards 2016 and beyond. She has received an invitation to train with the U.S. weightlifting program in Colorado Springs.

“The 2016 Olympics? I don’t think I’ll be ready for that. But what I hope is 2020 in Tokyo that’s the ultimate goal. Who knows? A lot can happen in five years.”

“Weightlifting teaches you a lot of life lessons. It teaches you to be resilient and work hard and be patient, you’re not going to be able to lift everything in a year maybe not even in five years.

Strength takes a while to build, have to have more and more reps for your brain to understand what your body wants to do.”

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