Cheryl was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1983. She spent much of her early years very thin and sick, suffering from allergies, ear infections, and other illnesses. Once her tonsils and adenoids were removed at age 6 she became healthy and began gaining weight and getting stronger. Cheryl’s parents were athletes and encouraged her to pursue sports. At age 13 she became interested in weightlifting as a way to improve at softball.
Cheryl’s interest and love for weightlifting took off from there. By 15 she was a national champion, leading female weightlifter, and the youngest weightlifter to ever hold senior American records.
The 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia were the first games in which women were able to compete in weightlifting. Cheryl had a perfect day with a 275 lb snatch and a 319 lb clean and jerk. She brought home the bronze medal. Cheryl also competed at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens and at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing.
In 2002, Cheryl competed in the World Championships and ranked highest overall, male or female. In addition to her weightlifting achievements, Cheryl is a versatile athlete who can run 40 yards in 5.5 seconds, complete 30-inch vertical leaps, and is extremely flexible.
In 2012, a documentary by Julie Wyman about Cheryl called “Strong!” was released with the tagline, “Lift Like a Girl” (!!!). The film tracked Cheryl’s journey and struggles as a weightlifter. In the film Cheryl says, "As a whole, we can have just a bit more confidence and believe in ourselves just a little bit more and not be afraid of becoming strong in whatever way strong means."
Author, Molly Malone