There are sayings when watching a high school athlete walk by. Phrases such as “they pass the eye test,” or “they look great getting off the bus.”
Those are commentaries are about the physical appearance of the athletes.
When they walk their campus or are out in public, they carry the swagger that screams “athlete.”
Then there are those unassuming athletes. The ones that are on top of their craft, but you wouldn’t know by how they act, talk, or walk.
Have a conversation with them and they seem every bit a typical high school student.
Take Kimberly Wiese. The 16-year-old junior at the Dougherty Valley school brings out the typical high girl - bubbly, talkative and energetic. The reality is, Wiese is far from your typical high school student.
What you wouldn’t walk away from a conversation with Wiese, unless you knew ahead of time, is that she is at the top of her class as a Junior Olympic weightlifter.
Wiese will take her biggest step March 25-April as a member of Team USA at the 2023 IWF World Youth Championships in Durres, Albania.
Under the guidance of coach Edwin Johnson, who runs Fortified Strength in San Ramon, Wiese has risen quickly in the world Olympic weightlifting.
At times it almost seems like Wiese is oblivious how good she has become so fast.
“A lot of it is in the nature of her age – living life as a teenager,” said Johnson of Wiese. “She is still very much a teenage girl.”
To clarify, the major disciplines for weightlifting are Olympic and Powerlifting. Olympic focuses on performing two lifts overhead with good technique known as the clean and jerk, and the snatch. Powerlifting is less technical and focuses more on completing three controlled, heavy lifts known as the squat, bench press, and the dead lift.
In Olympic, the “snatch” is to lift the barbell the ground to overhead in one continuous motion. The clean and jerk is a composite of two weightlifting movements.
During the “clean”, the lifter moves the barbell from the floor to a racked position across the deltoids, without resting fully on the clavicles.
During the “jerk”, the lifter raises the barbell to a stationary position above the head, finishing with straight arms and legs, and the feet in the same plane as the torso and barbell.
Sitting down with Jones and Wiese for about 90 minutes at the Fortified Strength gym in San Ramon one day was more than enough to appreciate, and enjoy, the dynamic between coach and athlete.
Wiese would give a 16-year-old perspective on things with Jones stepping in to guide his teenage athlete with additional details.
“For a while it was only the two of us traveling to tournaments, so we formed a good relationship, and have open communication,” said Johnson with a laugh.
It was fun to watch as the athlete’s passion, combined with the coach’s perspective painting the picture of success. Wiese got started in 2017 when she was 11 years old.
“My dad invited me down for a workout,” said Wiese, referring to the San Ramon CrossFit/Fortified Strength site. “I didn’t want to go, but my mom talked me into it.”
She was hooked. In just 7-8 months she entered her first competition and a short time after that Wiese was in her first nationals. Wiese ended up tied for third in her first nationals experience, and it was game on.
“She was still coming only one day a week,” said Johnson. “That was the incentive to increase workouts. It was amazing to put those marks up, coming one day a week. It was unprecedented.”
Everything was going in a great direction, then COVID hit and slammed the breaks on.
“I didn’t want to see the students do nothing, so we started on Zoom training,” said Johnson. “I didn’t want them to lift heavy weights at home, but we were able to do some work.”
In that time, Wiese had the chance to see weightlifting action from the 2020 Olympics and she was mesmerized.
“Once she started coming back in, she had seen Olympic weight lifting,” said Johnson of Wiese. “She came to me saying, “coach, I need to do more.”
By the time everything got back to normal it was time for the 2022 Nationals. Wiese was ready to go, but standing in the way was Brianna Marquez - the defending champion and No. 1 ranked in 64 kilograms (141.09 pounds).
“Most of the top competitors had just returned from worlds,” said Johnson of what appeared to be an uphill competition for Wiese. It was time for Wiese to make a name for herself.
“Brianna missed her first two attempts in the snatch, and I was smelling blood,” said Johnson. “I knew my girl could lift that weight. Then Kimberly went out and won the gold!”
Wiese has picked up several medals at the National tournament, winning a pair of golds, four silvers, and one bronze since 2019. Her success has made her a known quality in the Olympic weightlifting world. But it was that first that paved the way.
“The combos between the snatch and clean/jerk – she made such a massive jump that it gets her on the list for 64 Kilos,” said Johnson of Wiese getting on to U.S. rankings. Marquez then aged out of the juniors and Wiese suddenly was top ranked in the country in the 72-kilo (156.52 pounds).
“Three weeks ago, the rankings came out and (Wiese) was top ranked,” said Johnson.
Which led to the trip to Albania for the Junior World’s. Pretty heady stuff for an innocent high school junior.
“It makes no sense that I am here,” said Wiese of qualifying for Junior’s. “My friends are excited, but to me it just seems normal.”
Word has been spreading throughout the Dougherty Valley community, but the student’s perception is of powerlifting when thinking about the sport.
“When people find out they always ask me what I can bench,” said Wiese with a laugh. “I’m not very strong in the bench. That’s powerlifting.”
After her initial participation in World’s, Wiese comes back and has nationals set in June. That’s a quick turnaround, leaving for a questionable training path.
“We’ll assess after worlds,” said Johnson of the game plan for preparing for nationals.
On the schedule following National’s would be the Junior Pan-American games in late October-early November in Santago, Chili. In between the two there is a competition scheduled in Pleasanton at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in September.
There is a lot of training between now and then. A schedule that is certainly not for many – especially a 16-year old. Wiese hits the gym twice a day during the week, with a Saturday workout as well.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday there is a 5:30 a.m.-7:15 a.m. workout followed by another from 3:45 p.m. up to 7 p.m. The Saturday workout is a couple of hours as well.
One component of being successful often overlooked is the diet.
“I have a licensed nutritionist that sets my diet,” said Wiese. “It is 3,300 calories a day. My mom prepares my meals each day.”
An example of what a normal day looks like for Wiese when it comes to eating looks like this:
There’s a pre-workout snack at roughly 5:15 a.m. and following breakfast shortly after the work out. That usually consists of fruit, yogurt, and granola.
At 9:20 a.m. there is snack time, usually Wiese’s favorite snack – Cheese It’s.
“I love my Cheese It’s,” said Wiese, who was working her way through some when we talked.
Around 10:20 a.m. there is an Asian Pear to eat and following at 11:30 a.m. comes lunch which might be salad and a protein shake.
Before the afternoon workout there could be some crackers and cheese, mixed in with Honey Stinger Energy Chews throughout the day.
Following the afternoon work there is time for more Cheese It’s, then finally dinner, which is currently broccoli, bread, and chicken with a lemon and herb seasonings.
What about those cheat days? Perhaps some fast food fit in on some days.
“I don’t have cheat days except when we go on vacation,” said Wiese. “And then I usually end up eating less on those days.”
Johnson is all for his students’ taking breaks.
“I try to push the kids to live as much as they can when they are young,” said Johnson. “Go out and have fun with your friends when you get a chance.”
The early success has brought future goals into play – a spot on the United States Olympic team.
“The 2028 Olympics is what I am shooting for,” said Wiese. “Then 2032 after that.”
Johnson feels it is an attainable goal and Wiese is right where she needs to be.
“She is looking good to make an Olympic team,” said Johnson. “She is doing everything she needs to be doing.”
To find out more about Fortified Strength, please visit www.fortifiedstrength.org.