JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — While plenty of other sports get the attention at ETSU, deep in the Mini Dome, a group of the school’s strongest athletes train with a huge goal in mind.
The bar goes up, then crashes back to the ground. Weight is added, and the process starts again.
“The goal of the program is to produce an Olympian that is capable of winning a gold medal,” said Coach Satoshi Mizuguchi.
This is the weightlifting team at ETSU. As of 2012, the home of the Bucs is also the home of the US Olympic Training Site for the sport, and many either still don’t know about it or just recently found out.
“I honestly didn’t know they gave out scholarships or anything when i started lifting here,” said team member Kaleb Sargent. “It feels really nice to get some hard work paying off.”
Science Hill grad Sargent started his athletic career in a traditional way, but then he found strength training.
“I pole vaulted in high school,” he said. “I did a few other sports before that but nothing really. I got interested in strength around my sophomore year. Then i found this program, and i started coming over here.”
Sargent is one of five ETSU athletes to bring home medals from the recent USA Weightlifting Regional Championships, bringing home the women’s title in the process.
“We worked through the fall and worked through the spring, and i think all the hard work actually kind of bloomed,” Mizuguchi said. “It came out to be a very successful meet.”
They’re not quite at Olympic level yet, but like the sport they do, it all takes time.
“It’s a very slow progress sport,” Mizuguchi said. “The key is to go slowly but surely so that we have long term goals set, as well as very short term goals.”
One of the team’s best athletes, Megan Poole, won a gold medal at the Regional Championships. That qualified her for Nationals in Dallas in August.
A good performance there would qualify her for the World Championship team.