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Women uplifting women: First ever USA Weightlifting International Women’s camp

USA Weightlifting hosted the first-ever International Women’s Weightlifting Camp in Las Vegas over the weekend. 24 women representing 11 different countries joined USA Weightlifting’s President and IWF Vice President, Ursula Garza Papandrea and coaches Aimee Everett and Erin Andica at Average Broz Gym for four days of training and speakers.

Countries represented included USA, Kenya, Kosovo, Barbados, Bolivia, Guyana, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland. Participants of all skill level were welcome to attend, and many came from countries where the sport of weightlifting is just starting to develop.

“We’re working on cleaning up technique and having really good workouts every single time, with feedback from coaches, which a lot of them don’t have regularly,” said Garza-Papandrea.

The athletes in attendance from Kosovo and Guyana are the only women from their home countries currently competing in weightlifting.

“The misconception that a lot of people have back home is that this kind of training is bad for you, that it makes you short and makes women bulky,” Leonora Brajshori of Kosovo told USA Weightlifting. “I just want to show them that it doesn’t actually. All these women here look beautiful and feminine. I want to bring that back to them and show them that you can do weightlifting and that it’s not dangerous.”

In Kenya, Winnie Okoth is the 63kg National Champion. She’s part of a small group of female weightlifters in the county working to overcome the assumption of many in Kenya that weightlifting is a man’s sport.

“What I’m looking to learn is how other women are able to get through what men perceive about sports, how they are able to overcome that,” she said.

In addition to improving performance, Coach Erin Andica hopes the camp hoped to foster a sense of community and encourage the athletes to take home what they learned to empower women in their home countries.

“We want to create an equal base for women, a support system for women so they know they are strong, they can do it, that we can work together and that they are capable of moving forward and becoming a powerhouse in the world,” Andica said.

Guest speakers included Dr. Tamra Wroblesky, PT, who spoke about the importance of maintaining pelvic health and Renaissance Periodization Nutritionist, Ashley Kavanaugh, PhD. Coach Aimee Everett spoke about developing mental strength, and USADA gave a presentation reinforcing the importance of clean sport.

Plans are already underway to make the women’s camp an annual event. IWF is glad to see more women getting support in weightlifting.


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