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July 30, 2012

OLYMPICS: USA lifter hopes to use platform to inspire others

LONDON — Holley Mangold is nearly 340 pounds - and proud of it.

The U.S. super heavyweight Olympic lifter thinks she looks fabulous and can't understand why others don't always feel good about themselves.

Mangold, sister of New York Jets star Nick Mangold, is convinced that helping people of all sizes feel better about themselves might be her future calling.

She said she runs into a lot of "small people'' whose confidence is "so low that it makes me feel really bad for them.''

"So I want to do something with that, try to make people feel more confident,'' she said Monday. "I'll see a small, pretty little girl and she has no confidence whatsoever, and that kind of makes me think 'Well, that's skinny girl problems.' But it's just weird, and I want to fix it.''

How? Mangold will get to that later.

Right now she's got her first Olympics in front of her.

Mangold, 22, initially made headlines as the first high school girl in Ohio to play for a state title in football and for having a famous brother. She later went to Ursuline College on a track scholarship, but the discus and shot put eventually gave way to lifting.

Mangold proved to be a natural, making the U.S. team even though many thought it would be more realistic if she focused on qualifying for the Rio Games in 2016. Mangold isn't favored to medal when she competes in London on Aug. 5, but she's made such remarkably quick progress that it's hard to count her out.

According to training partner Drew Dillon, most Olympic champions start when they're about 10.

Mangold took up competitive lifting less than five years ago and yet is already an Olympian.

"It wasn't until Holley that I really understood the athlete gene,'' Dillon said. "A person has it or they don't. You can tell an athlete to move their body a certain way and they can go a lot faster to do that than someone that doesn't have that, and Holley really defines that,'' Dillon said.

Mangold has also proved to be a natural in front of the camera, thanks to her outgoing personality, quick wit and the confidence with which she carries with herself.

She said she got that mostly from sports. She's been good at them since she was little - and was even the speed roller skating champion of Ohio when she was 5. That success, coupled with the lifelong friendships developed through sports, taught Mangold how to feel good about herself no matter what she weighs.

The 5-foot-8 Mangold said she used to weigh as much as 390 pounds before dropping 100 of it in about four months. She didn't like it there, though, so she bulked up to her current weight.

Mangold acknowledges she isn't concerned about what she weighs because it's all about being powerful enough for lifting, anyway.

"It's not really about health. After I retire, I'll definitely try to get healthier just because I'd like to live longer,'' Mangold said. "And it's not a body-image thing. I'll always be huge. I'll never be a tiny little stick figure. But at least I could be healthy. You can be a larger woman and still be healthy.''

Mangold's outlook is simple: Be what you are and rock it.

Such a public stance has made her a role model. Mangold said that's inspired her to put aside her previous goal of getting a Ph.D. in theology and instead look for ways to affect change.

"I would like to say I hope you find inspiration from my story. I hope you find inspiration to do something out of the norm - and it's not just for women, she said. "It's for men, women, children, old people, you know, everyone. The reason is I want people to wake up every day and be happy with what they're doing.''


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