The Iron Lady: A Chat With Competitive Weightlifter Kesli Gazsi

Competitive weightlifter Kesli Gazsi, 22, trains two to four hours a day, six days a week at Newport Beach’s SoCal Weightlifting Club.

Photograph by John Cizmas

What drew you to Olympic-style weightlifting?
I started doing CrossFit at age 15 and was really drawn to the weightlifting aspect. Growing up in Newport Beach, I wasn’t the typical little pretty, blonde girl. I was the one lifting the other girls in cheerleading. In weightlifting, it doesn’t matter what size you are. Some of these girls are 300 pounds. Some are super small. There are so many different body types, and you’re not judged.

How did you end up joining SoCal Weightlifting Club?
The CrossFit gym I had joined was actually at this same location. After a few years, I found out about Chris Amenta, who was coaching weightlifting out of a small corner of another gym, so I left to join him. Then in 2016, the owners of the original CrossFit sold their gym and Chris actually bought it. So I’m back in the same space I started at, seven years later!

How much can you lift?
My best snatch was 64kg (141 pounds) and my best clean and jerk has been 78kg (168 pounds). I just set a personal record at a competition in San Diego. Our team at SoCal Weightlifting won the competition.

Tell me about the people you train with.
Our oldest member is in his early 60s, and we have some teenagers who are definitely on the path to the Olympics.

Do you have any Olympic aspirations?
I don’t know. Maybe in a few years I can get to that level. It’s a lot of pressure and it would take a lot of patience. The No. 1 girl right now, Mattie Rogers, is in my weight class and is my age, but she can lift way more.

Advice for anyone interested in trying this?
Anybody can come and start training with us—even people who have never worked out. You start off with a training bar just working on getting the form down.

Are people intimidated by the sport?
I’ve had women tell me they want to try it but are afraid of getting “bulky”—first of all, we don’t use that word here. I like the way I look. I like my muscles. I’m strong. Who cares what other people think?

Where do you get that confidence?
My father is a police chief in Los Angeles. He has always been a champion of women, whether it’s women on the force or us at home (he has three children, all girls—even the dog is a girl). He always wanted us to know that we could do anything we wanted.

Find out more about SoCal Weightlifting Club at

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