In some ways, Canadian athlete Rory van Ulft might be one of the strongest competitors for her age that weightlifting and powerlifting have seen in some time. At just 9 years old, van Ulft has developed a reputation, particularly with her deadlift, for having impeccable pulling power and an “iron will” with a barbell in her hands (literally and figuratively). The athlete’s latest official addition to her weightlifting rap sheet, featuring a noteworthy overhead lift, might be another entry in the growing lore of her budding career.
On Jan. 21, 2023, van Ulft captured a 66-kilogram (145.5-pound) clean & jerk during the 2023 Variety Village Open in Toronto, Canada. According to the caption in a video of the feat from van Ulft’s Instagram, facilitated by a parent/manager, van Ulft had a body weight of 32.8 kilograms (72.4 pounds) on contest day. In turn, that makes van Ulft the youngest person ever, regardless of gender, to successfully finish a clean & jerk that was double their body weight during a sanctioned competition. Not to be outdone, a final total of 254.39 Sinclair — the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) primary tool for contextualizing an athlete’s strength by weight class — van Ulft officially notched the best-ever performance by a 40-kilogram female competitor.
A mind-bending achievement for someone of her young age aside, van Ulft’s clean & jerk wasn’t her only major accomplishment from the Toronto contest. Per the same Instagram caption, the athlete broke six Canadian provincial 15U and 17U records on previous lifts during the competition. The final double-body weight clean & jerk appeared to act more like gravy layered over an already prolific day for the youthful elite competitor.
The parent/manager of van Ulft’s Instagram credited a few people for training van Ulft to enjoy such a productive day while simultaneously making history. They included the athlete’s coach, Spencer Moorman, who can be seen in the background of the clip of van Ulft’s milestone encouraging the lifter. Others receiving praise included trainers like “Cierra” (last name undisclosed) and the CANAM Strength and Conditioning team from van Ulft’s native Ottawa, Canada. The Ontario Weightlifting Association (ONWA) also earned a shoutout.
“An enormous thank you to Coach [Moorman] (who deserves to win Coach of the Year in at least one country for this!), [Cierra], and the entire [CANAM Strength and Conditioning] team for their incredible support at this event, as well as to the [Ontario Weightlifting Association] for putting on such a fun and welcoming event!”
For context on an American scale regarding van Ulft’s new achievements and results, the athlete’s 66-kilogram (145.5-pound) clean & jerk is eight kilograms (17.6 pounds) more than the USA Weighlifting (USAW) Youth Women’s record for the 40-kilogram weight class. Kendra Hoover holds the mark with a clean & jerk of 58 kilograms (127.8 pounds). However, Hoover notched her lift when she was 12, roughly three years older than van Ulft.
The year 2023 has only just begun, and van Ulft is already acting as a lifting pioneer for her age group and beyond. If this is how the athlete starts a fresh new calendar, time will only tell as to what other sparkling heights she might achieve through the ensuing 11 months.
Featured image: @roryvanulft on Instagram
About Robert Zeglinski
Robert is a seasoned and adept editor and writer with a keen, passionate penchant for the writing craft. He’s been a leader in newsrooms such as SB Nation, USA TODAY, and WBBM Newsradio, with various other content and art production teams, and first made a name for himself in his hometown of Chicago. When not knee-deep in research or lost in a stream of consciousness for a thorough piece, you can find Robert inhaling yet another novel, journaling his heart out, or playing with his Shiba Inu, Maximus (Max, for short).