This year's Olympic women's weightlifting competition in London marks the first time since the sport's introduction in 2000 that Cheryl Haworth hasn't represented the United States. The three-time Olympian, who won a bronze medal in the super heavyweight division in 2000 at age 17, retired following her sixth-place finish at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Just because she won't be in London doesn't mean she won't be watching.
"I'm definitely going to be in front of the television cheering my fellow athletes on for Team USA and even for folks who don't compete for Team USA," Haworth said in a phone interview from her home in Savannah, Ga., where she now works as an admissions representative at her alma mater, the Savannah College of Art and Design. "I know a lot of folks from my experiences competing around the world and I know what it takes to be there and to compete and to feel those feelings and struggle and put everything on the line for everybody to see."
The United States will be represented by super heavyweights Sarah Robles and Holley Mangold. Robles (269 pounds) and Mangold (340 pounds) are the only two women who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic weightlifting team. Both will make their Olympic debut Sunday in the 75-plus kilogram event.
Haworth shared some veteran advice with the rookies after they qualified for the team.
"In a really strange way the Olympics is actually the easiest competition you'll ever lift weights in," Haworth said. "You don't have to worry about where you're going next, you don't need to worry about anything. It's very pure, it's very simple. You go out there and you try to lift as much weight as you possibly can."
"It seems odd to think about because isn't that what you do every time? Not necessarily," Haworth continued. "Sometimes you have certain marks, sometimes you have to hold yourself back, sometimes you're just looking for specific numbers. But this time you just go out there and don't worry about anything else, you don't worry about setting yourself up for another competition. If you can lift it, you put it on the bar and you lift it, that's that."
Haworth thinks highly of the super heavyweight duo and believes each can finish in the top 10 in London.
"They're both really great gals and I'm so excited they're going," Haworth said. "I think they're going to do really well. They're both very young but they're both incredibly talented."
In addition to watching the weightlifting competition and rooting on Robles and Mangold, Haworth looks forward to a new perspective on the games.
"These will be the first games I wasn't a part of since the millennium," Haworth said. "But it's also a perspective I've never had or can't really remember having -- the awareness to sit down and really appreciate what they're all about."