Weight of the World
GJ resident Shirley Callaway to compete in Olympic weightlifting at World Master Games in Italy
The clanking of the round iron slabs onto the barbell is a sound as familiar as the ticking of a clock to Shirley Callaway.
Those sounds have been near the center of her life for the past five years.
When she was 55, Callaway jumped into Olympic weightlifting.
Callaway has tackled the sport with an intense vigor, and she has the results to show for all of her hard work.
Now, she’s off to compete with the best in the world.
The 60-year-old Grand Junction resident will compete in the World Masters Games in Torino, Italy, this weekend.
“I’m really excited. To compete at this level is really exciting,” she said.
Olympic weightlifting consists of two challenging lifts: The snatch and the clean and jerk.
The snatch is where the barbell is plucked from the ground and hefted to an overhead position in one motion. The clean and jerk is a two-motion exercise that first involves pulling the barbell from the ground to the chest in a single motion, then raising it to an overhead position in the second motion.
Callaway earned her trip to Worlds by qualifying at nationals. Over the past four years at the national competition, Callaway has been successful, winning gold medals in 2010 and 2011, and silver medals in 2012 and 2013. But her 2013 performance was a personal best with a combined total of the two lifts of 83 kilos (182 pounds).
There will be more than 500 competitors competing in various age categories at the World Masters Games.
Callaway will compete in the 60-64 age group, but in many competitions, the masters division consists of ages 35 and up.
That was the case at the Rocky Mountain State Games in Colorado Springs where she placed second last Sunday.
“I felt pretty good about that,” she said about competing and beating competitors much younger than herself.
Callaway said she started going to the gym when she turned 40 and hasn’t stopped since.
She migrated to figure competitions when she turned 50, then turned to Olympic lifting.
Before getting into the gym for the first time, she was active but never did any sports when she was younger.
“That’s what is so bizarre about this,” she said about getting into competitions after she turned 50.
Callaway gives a lot of credit to her coach and Ridgeline Fitness owner Adam Ford.
“He’s the reason I’ve done so well. He’s never told me that I couldn’t do anything,” she said.
The two lifting disciplines take work, and success comes with mastering the technical aspects.
“It was a slow progression. I really didn’t know if I could do it,” Callaway said. “It’s very technical, very precise. Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s always room for improvement.”
Callaway, a Texas native who moved to Grand Junction in 1987, said getting into the gym changed her life.
“I was hooked right away,” she said. “Just how it makes you feel (in the gym) and the rest of the time, it runs into a 24/7 impact. It’s just a lifestyle for me now.
“It’s given me a lot more confidence, a positive outlook on life and just being healthy.”
Other than a few aches and pains over the years, Callaway said she’s never sustained an injury from her lifting regimen.
Besides the weightlifting training, Callaway said core training is vitally important to her success.
She said being active in the outdoors is something she enjoys, including big-game hunting.
Now that she’s off to Italy, she admits she never traveled much when she was younger. But once she started competing, she’s gone to various contests around the country.
The trip to Italy was a birthday present to herself, she said. She turned 60 on July 17.
Callaway said she doesn’t think most of her family and friends understand the sport of Olympic weightlifting.
“I don’t think they know how much work and effort goes into it,” she said.
Going to the gym, putting in the hours and doing the hard work is just routine for Callaway.
“I’m pretty low-key about it. I don’t really advertise it,” she said about the success she has had in Olympic weightlifting.
On Sunday, she will compete in the World Masters Games in Italy.
That’s something worth advertising.