HAVERFORD, Pa. – The Haverford College community was privileged to have Olympic weightlifting medalist Cheryl Haworth on campus Thursday, March 22 when she was able to host a workout demonstration in the morning and Q-and-A session in the afternoon. The evening prior, a sneak preview of STRONG! -- chronicling Haworth’s struggles to defend her champion status as she also struggled with having a body type that is celebrated within her sport but shunned by mainstream culture – was hosted by the College’s Strange Truth Documentary Film Series.
Part of Haverford’s And the Winner Is… event, Haworth joined the event schedule to not only help promote the documentary but to reach out to the attendees of the morning demonstration and afternoon session.
The movie’s message that Haworth and filmmaker Julie Wyman hope viewers come away with is that people should have the power and confidence to do what they are good at, win or lose. Even the choice of the documentary’s title carries a lesson which Wyman and the now-retired Haworth want to convey –acknowledging vulnerability and moving on is a strength.
“One always has to be willing to grow, willing to learn,” states Haworth who adds, “Being a student and being an athlete go hand in hand.” Haverford strength and conditioning director Cory Walts points out that Haworth is a great example of someone who had goals and aspired to reach them, not just in athletics but also in life.
Haworth’s background certainly qualifies the 28-year-old Savannah, Ga., native to dole out advice.
She began weightlifting in 1996 at the age of 14 and by the time she was 16 had twice won gold at the United States Junior National championships (16 & under) and finished fourth at the Junior World championship. Record-setting years followed leading up to a gold at the 1999 Pan American Games and silver at the 2000 junior world championships.
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia, Haworth reached the podium becoming the youngest athlete to win an Olympic weightlifting medal. She captured a bronze medal for the U.S. in the super heavyweight (75-plus kilogram/165 pounds and up) division.
The injury bug derailed further Olympic glory though she did place sixth for the U.S. at both the 2004 and 2008 Games.
Since retiring from the sport in 2010, Haworth faces the conflict of having been viewed in one world as an elite, powerful athlete but now existing in a mainstream world which judges women differently.
Those societal pressures helped spur Haworth and Wyman to film STRONG! Haworth also wanted to let others learn “about women’s weightlifting, what I do, and why I am so dedicated.”
During her time on campus Haworth was able to reach a number of Haverford’s student-athletes through her weightlifting and instructional demonstration and an even broader student group in the Q-and-A session.
One message she feels is an important one to take away from her time on campus -- particularly for the student-athletes in attendance -- is that being an athlete is in itself being a student. “Personal success is from the ability to receive criticism and what you do better, moving forward.” Haworth emphasized that individuals have to make sacrifices. “You can’t have everything, and be everything. What are you passionate enough about to make sacrifices?”
Haworth left a lasting impression on the entire Haverford community with her message of success--a story of accomplishment amidst an array of challenges.