Female Philadelphia weightlifter a possible 2016 Olympic contender

Local weight lifter Samantha Wright, already pulling in lots of attention, could well qualify for the 2016 Olympics, observers say.
Local weight lifter Samantha Wright, already pulling in lots of attention, could well qualify for the 2016 Olympics, observers say. (KAIT PRIVITERA)
Posted: July 29, 2012

The women's Olympic weight-lifting competition starts Saturday in London, but the lifter grabbing the most attention just might be in Philadelphia.

She isn't in the Olympics, having placed in the top 10 at this year's USA National Senior Weightlifting Championships, yet 5-foot-2, 115-pound Samantha Wright has become an Internet sensation.

Last month, the 22-year-old Center City trainer started hearing from people seeing online stories and pictures of her lifting weights.

She doesn't know how it all began.

"It happened overnight and it felt unprompted, and I'm still trying to come to terms about why it's happening," she says.

She knew something was up when a stranger came up to her in a Center City store and asked to have a photo taken with her.

"She said, 'Are you Samantha Wright? I'm a huge fan of yours,' " Wright recalls. "I didn't even know I was someone."

She's someone now, if the many websites featuring stories and photos of her are any indication.

"You Might See The 'Pixie Warrior Weightlifter' In The Next Olympics," blares the website of American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, RyanSeacrest.com.

"The Internet Has A Huge Crush On This Female Weightlifter," coos content aggregation website BuzzFeed.

"Meet Samantha Wright, Cute Blonde Pixie and Badass Weightlifter," says the online women's magazine BettyConfidential.

Wright is a former competitive gymnast, a sport that seems more fitting for someone her small size who looks like a young, edgier Cathy Rigby with short hair dyed blond.

But Wright is hardly a lightweight when it comes to weight lifting. She can snatch 145 pounds, meaning she can lift the weight from the floor to overhead in one motion. She can clean and jerk 170 pounds.

Wright, who began lifting weights a year ago, is different from the stereotypical image of weight lifters, says Jim Rutter, coach of the weight-lifting club Wright belongs to, Liberty Barbell. The club meets at CrossFit Center City, where Rutter and Wright are trainers.

"She's not only physically attractive, but she's also feminine and she's doing a sport that requires a tremendous amount of strength and athleticism," Rutter says. She might just make the 2016 Olympics, he says.

Though she disdains some of the lewd comments online about her looks, Wright appreciates that she is an inspiration to some female athletes. Still, she says, all the glory and attention should go to the U.S. women weight lifters competing in the Olympics.

"Why am I gaining this attention and people are telling me they're looking up to me - and these women deserve it and aren't getting it?" she asks.

Wright would be happy if the spotlight on her went dark: "I'm not one to love attention."

Contact Carolyn Davis

at 215-854-4214, cdavis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @carolyntweets.

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