When most people think of competitive Olympic-style weightlifting, they think of bodybuilders or professional wrestlers. They don't think of Micah Clark, 15, of Lawrence.
"I'm not really that big," said Clark, who is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs about 125 pounds. "People associate strength with size. That's the reason why people don't think that I do it because I don't look the part."
Although he may not look like a competitive weightlifter, Clark has competed for about three years in the junior division of USA Weightlifting, which is the national governing body for Olympic weightlifting in the United States.
"There's a lot more into it than what people think," Clark said. "Most people don't even know that it's a sport."
While the sport is not well-known in the United States, it is popular in other countries, said Loren McVey, 54, who has been coaching Olympic-style weightlifting for more than 30 years. He also coaches Clark and four other teen lifters in Lawrence.
"Most of the teenagers that I work with want to get stronger and better for whatever sport that they are participating in," McVey said. "Some find out that they like it, but that's a minority."
But those who get hooked like the sport because they can see immediate improvements in their body, he said.
Brad Klug, 16, of Lawrence, first enrolled in one of McVey's strength-training classes last year because he wanted to get stronger for football.
"I really didn't feel like I was strong enough," Klug said. "I just felt like I couldn't contribute, so I wanted to get stronger so I could actually knock down people."
A year has passed, and Klug does not play football anymore. He now competes regularly in Olympic-style weightlifting competitions.
For Kate Naramore, 18, of Lawrence, participating in the sport makes her feel unique.
"I'm the only girl at Free State (High School) who does this," she said. "When I started, it was just another thing to do. It was fun -- it was something new to learn. I wish that more girls would get into it."
Although USA Weightlifting is a stepping stone to the Olympics, Clark does not plan to go to the Olympics. Instead, he said he hoped to place in February at the National Junior Weightlifting Championships in Illinois.
"Originally, that was a goal of mine," Clark said. "I'm pretty good, but I'm not Olympic good. I hope to keep lifting throughout my whole life just to stay in shape."
Olympic-style weight lifting consists of two styles of lifting: the snatch, and the clean and jerk. The snatch requires the lifter to pick up the bar off the floor using a wide overhand grip.The clean and jerk is a two-step process.¢ For the clean, the lifter must pick up the bar off the floor using a normal overhand grip and catch it on their shoulder or collarbone.¢ For the jerk, the lifter dips down and pushes the bar up and at the same time, jumps out with one leg in front and one leg behind.Lifters are given three chances to complete each lift. The best of each lift is combined for their total.