Unique weightlifting club in Columbia takes national stage

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COLUMBIA -- The Mid-Missouri Weightlifting Club (MMWC) will be on the national stage later this month, taking part in the 2017 USA Weightlifting National Junior Championships in Kansas City. The club will be represented by Zia Kelly, Forrest Wilson, and Will Swartz, who are competitng across various divisions over the weekend. 

Wilson and Swartz are both students at Hickman, who are members of the baseball and football teams respectively. Kelly is a freshman Journalism major at the Univeristy of Missouri. 

"We all have a really great opportunity here, because it's a free club," said Wilson, "And we get a lot of good coaches with great experience that help us."

"I started mid-Missouri a month after I got to Mizzou," Kelly said, "Finding that, and being in a sport, especially being in kind of an unsual sport was pretty amazing. I was pretty lucky to find it so quickly after moving to Columbia."

The three competitors have learned under coach Brian Higginbotham, who bring decades of experience to MMWC. 

"I was an olympic hopeful as a kid, trained out of the Olympic Training Center," Higginbotham said, "Got hurt before the Olympic Trials in my hometown in 1996. Had knee surgery, quit for 17 years. I came back in 2014 and started competing again." 

Along with Higginbotham, the club works under the tutelege of Dr. Tom LaFontaine, who qualified for and competed in the 1972 Olympic trials for olympic weightlifting, and has achieved plenty in his weightlfting career. 

"I started [in weightlifting] when I was 15 years old," LaFontaine said, "And when I was 15 I taught myself basically, I didn't have any coaches. Mostly, when I come in, coach the kids for technique and encourage them, and things like that."

The 2017 USA Weightlifting National Junior Championships will take place in Kansas City at the Crown Center Exhibition Center, part of downtown Kansas City’s Crown Center complex, from February 23– 26. 

For more information on the event, visit the 2017 National Junior Championships website here