A few years ago, somebody told East Tennessee State University student Shelbie Serpan that she should try weightlifting as a sport, that she would be good at it.
This week, the senior majoring in allied health is competing in the Pan American Weightlifting Championships in Caracas, Venezuela.
A good performance there could mean a spot at the 2016 Olympic trials.
“For me, it’s the only sport that I have participated in that each day brings a different challenge,” Serpan said in an interview before flying to South America. “It’s all about how your body is feeling, how your training is going. Everything is going to be different.”
According to ETSU, Serpan, one of the inaugural students participating in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site at ETSU, qualified for the Pan Am event through her performance in the National University Championships and World Pan American Championships Qualifier weightlifting meet, which was hosted in April at ETSU. There were over 200 competitors at this meet, which was the first national-level meet ETSU hosted since becoming a designated Olympic Training Site.
Originally from Clearwater, Kan., Serpan was training at the Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs, Colo., when she was asked to come to ETSU.
Prior to that she was at the U.S. Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University.
Serpan competed in track during high school and was even on a track scholarship her first year of college when someone told her she would be good at weightlifting.
“So I dropped everything and moved to northern Michigan at the Olympic Education Center up there, and that’s kind of how I got my start,” she said.
She has been in many competitions since then. This is her second Pan Am team.
The Pan Am event will be the fourth international competition for Serpan, who will try to qualify for the World Championships in October.
Weightlifting consists of two lifts called the snatch and the clean and jerk. The snatch is one movement from the floor directly over the head of the lifter. Clean and jerk is two movements going from the floor to shoulder level, and then over the head.
Serpan can lift 230 pounds in the snatch and 297 pounds in the clean and jerk.
She is the only student in ETSU’s program going to the competition in Venezuela.
She placed high enough at the April meet hosted at ETSU to qualify.
According to ETSU, Serpan competed in the 165 pound weight class, winning first place in the snatch, lifting 223 pounds; second place in the clean and jerk, lifting 286.5 pounds; and second place in the total, lifting 509 pounds. ETSU’s women’s weightlifting team placed second in the meet, and the co-ed team placed third.
Serpan left Sunday and will return late this week.
Her goal is to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janerio.
She hoped her time in the ETSU weightlifting program will enable that goal.
“It’s a great program,” she said. “I would suggest (it to) anybody who is in the sport of weightlifting and wants to pursue their education.
“I just love it.”