It’s been a long and interesting journey for local weightlifting star Abby Raymond, but there is a simple motto that she has adopted that has given her strength through the ups and downs that come with the sport, and with life, in the last few years.
“Strong, kind, different,” she said.
The 15-year-old has seen incredible successes and tough challenges since she took up the sport of weightlifting four years ago. When she first picked up weights, several area coaches were there to help her, including USA Olympic weightlifting coach Mike Gattone.
“I think Abby’s intensity is amazing,” he said. “She’s come a long way in a short amount of time.”
Within a year of taking up the sport, Raymond won her first youth national championship, and she was invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Out of that trip came a simple, and ambitious, goal of making the Olympic squad for the 2024 Games in Paris.
That goal comes with a lot of sacrifices, as Raymond spends upwards of two and a half hours a day in the gym at least five times a week. She also has adopted a strict diet to improve her performance, and the results speak for themselves, as she’s broken over a dozen youth American records and won a pair of championships in the meantime.
Unfortunately, her transformation and dedication to the sport have come at a price, as Raymond says she has dealt with bullying based on her appearance and based on her passion for the sport she loves.
“People would come up to me and say that I looked like a man, or that I was a lesbian,” she said. “I just think they didn’t understand because I was different from them.”
Things got so bad for Raymond that she ended up switching schools, and although she has had to deal with adversity throughout her journey, she believes that it has made her stronger both as a competitor and as a person.
“I’ve learned a lot from it,” she said. “I’m proud of who I am, and I’m not going to let anyone tell me what I can and what I can’t do.”
Abby’s mother Cari witnessed her daughter’s struggles, and ultimately her triumphs, over the bullying, and says she’s proud of her determination.
“It made me proud of her that she could stick with it,” she said.
Now, Raymond is focused on the next step of her Olympic journey, as she will represent her country at the Junior World Championships in Fiji this summer.
Raymond will be the youngest member of the team by three years, and she’s looking at the trip abroad as a chance to bolster her ultimate dreams of having a gold medal draped around her neck in the French capital in 2024.
“I (have) realized that I want to be an Olympian,” she said. “I want to win the Olympic gold medal.”