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Santa Rosa girl, 11, is national weightlifting champ

  • Maya Uemura, 11, works out at Myles Ahead Weightlifting in Petaluma, June 26, 2012. Uemura won a national weightlifting title at the USA Weightlifting Nationals in Michigan. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

These weren't the first words out of Maya Uemura's mouth Tuesday but, considering what she did and how well she did it, they certainly were the most important.

“We did spray a lot of glitter,” Uemura said.

Uemura, 11 years old and a soon-to-be seventh-grader at Rincon Valley Middle School, became a champion last Friday at the USA Weightlifting Nationals in Dearborn, Mich. Weighing 72 pounds soaking wet, Uemura snatched 57.2 pounds and clean-and-jerked 81.4 pounds in the under-35 kilo weight class and the under-13 age class.

It was a remarkable moment for a girl who had begun weightlifting just 18 months ago at the Myles Ahead Weightlifting club, made even more remarkable by this fact: Until three months ago, Uemura was training only one day a week at Myles. Now she trains twice.

Yet, when asked the highlight of her trip to nationals, Uemura didn't say it was that nifty gold medal or lifting nine more pounds than she weighs or having a YouTube video posted of her competing. It was spraying glitter with her fellow lifter and friend, Athena Schrijver.

The glitter for Uemura wasn't gold and heavy. It was silver and red and it floated through the air.

“It was fun,” Uemura said, unknowingly providing the verbal template for all youth sports. Freddie Myles and Jay and Kathy Uemura have taken great care in making sure that Maya has priorities in order when competing in sports. First, she must have fun. Second, she must have fun. Third, she must have fun.

“I want all my kids to play as many sports as possible,” Myles said. “I want them to use all their muscle groups so they won't put stress on one particular muscle. That's when injuries occur. Plus, I don't want them to get burnt out on one sport.”

Looking at Maya, she looks nothing like a kid collapsing under pressure. At first glance, and then at second and third glances as well, she provides the quintessential portrait of the kid next door, wonderfully, delightfully, blissfully oblivious to those things that give adults headaches. Like tension from expectations.

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