How an Olympian Raises the Bar for Plus-Sized Women

Sarah Robles wants more than a medal in London. She wants to break body-size stereotypes.

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In this week’s issue of TIME, we profile Sarah Robles, the top-ranked female Olympic weightlifter in the U.S. (The story is available on newsstands June 1, and to TIME subscribers here). As we write in the piece, Robles, who is 5 ft. 10 in. and weighs 275 pounds, “is chasing much more than a medal in London. She’s on a mission to change how people perceive larger women – and how larger women and girls perceive themselves.”

When we think of Olympic bodies, we tend to picture ripped runners, or a swimmer with a six-pack. Robles doesn’t fit that mold. But the Olympic stage is a chance for her to show young women that in some sports, size can be an advantage. Growing up, Robles was always the biggest kid in the class, and often bigger than her teachers. She was bullied: kids hit her and mooed at her. But by high school, she had found an athletic outlet, and finally felt acceptance.

For girls, breaking stereotypes is more difficult. We’re accustomed to seeing bulky guys playing football. Robles knows she should shed pounds once her competitive career is over, so she can avoid long-term health risks. But for now, she’s loving lifting. “The lifts are so rhythmic, the movements so purposeful,” Robles says. “I like the way it makes my body look and feel. I’m healthy on the inside now.”

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