The Future Shomer Shabbos Weightlifting Olympian
Last January, a 4-foot, 9-inch bundle of power named Naomi Kutin squatted and focused her considerable energies on the task at hand: hoisting a whopping 214.9 pounds (more than double her own 97 pounds). At the moment of that seemingly impossible lift, beating out her much older competitors, Naomi set a new powerlifting world record for women in her weight class.
For Naomi, the world of weightlifting, and even the town of Corpus Christi, TX where the competition was held, must have seemed a world away from the New Jersey day school where she was in fifth grade.
Naomi’s unusual avocation was born after her father Ed (a former prize-winning weight-lifter himself) noticed his 8-year-old daughter was stronger than any of the other kids in her karate class, regardless of gender. So, with his wife Neshama, he began to train Naomi. The youngster appears to have thrived under the challenge. Within months she was lifting to the point of setting national records.
But the lifestyles of a traditional Jewish family and a powerlifting competitor are not always in sync. Of course Shabbos observance would come first in her home, so Naomi would not compete at the Saturday events that are popular for girls and women. Instead she lifts at the mostly-male Sunday competitions.
Many a 10-year-old girl would find such an environment intimidating to say the least. But Naomi demonstrates a force of character that matches her physical strength, entering this odd, new world with a calm confidence that transcends age, gender, and religion.
For breaking both records and barriers, Naomi finds herself in good company––last week marks 80 years since another Jewish young woman, Lillian Copeland, broke into a male-dominated sport and nailed it, breaking the Olympic record for women’s discus throwing.
Today, a young girl named Naomi Kutin is able to hold her own, so to speak, in powerlifting competitions, an athletic universe far removed from her comfort zone. Yet no one questions her right to compete even in such a male-dominated sport. In fact, she is able to do so in perfect freedom.
And every time she does, somewhere Lillian must be smiling.