Christina Hampton looked so at home as she led me through Southern Muscle Company, the gym in Jasper where she trains. Hampton’s frame is small, but it was impossible to overlook the strength in her arms and legs as she pulled up two chairs to talk about a big competition the previous weekend and why she’s so drawn to Olympic weightlifting – a sport historically associated with men.
“Women can do anything,” she said. “What was really cool is there were more females at this competition than males. It just shows you that what women think now and how they look at themselves is not, ‘Oh I’ve got to be skinny. I’ve got to be elegant. I’ve got too much fat on my body or not enough.’ You can lift weights and still look beautiful. You can lift weights and be strong. I come into the gym and grind just like the guys do.”
Hampton was just back from Columbus, Ohio where she competed in the Arnold Classic, a massive event with over 60 categories – everything from wrestling to kettlebells to bodybuilding – and thousands of competitors from youth to athletes in their 70s. Hampton, a 28-year-old mother of a preschooler, participated in the Olympic weightlifting event with hopes that she’d do well enough to advance to nationals in Las Vegas.
“But that didn’t happen,” she said laughing. “I signed up in the 55 kilo weight class and I didn’t do my weight cut as well as I should have. I made weight, but lost my legs. The strength wasn’t there to hold me up. It’s okay, though. The best-of-the-best 55 kilos were there and I came in 10th place out of 69 girls, so I wasn’t mad about it.”
Hampton was only five kilos away from advancing to nationals. She needed to total 159 kilos in her six lifts, but fell a little short at 154. She also competed in the A group in her weight class, which are where the top athletes are placed.
“So I didn’t make it, but still I hit two birds with one stone,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be top 10, and I was in A group, too. That’s a big deal in the weightlifting world. I held my own for sure, but I’ve still got work to do.”
Hampton got involved in Olympic weightlifting in 2017 after a decade in competitive gymnastics. She took a few years off when her and her husband’s first child was born, but has been back at it hard since last May. Now she’s determined, she said. No cutting corners. No half-assed training. She’s all in.
“I like that lifting is so technical and I love the competitiveness,” she said. “I love to be on stage and just get after it. I’ve never competed in something that’s so mental. You have to believe in yourself so much to the point that you say, I’m going to pick this up. It’s a head game – if you doubt yourself and walk up there you’ve already told yourself you’re not going to make it.”
Hampton pulled out her phone and showed me a couple videos of her competing a few weeks ago. One was of a “snatch,” the other of a “clean and jerk.” Those are the two styles of lifts in Olympic weightlifting.
When she started five years ago Hampton was clearing “barely 125 pounds in the snatch and the clean and jerk was around 145 pounds,” she said. Now her personal best is 170 pounds on the snatch and 198 pounds on the clean and jerk. Plans now are to train hard until the American Open Finals in Atlanta in December.
And her training is as intense as you’d imagine.
Five days a week she’s at Southern Muscle Company, a weightlifting gym in Jasper, for two hours a day. Then three or four days a week she does an additional hour-and-a-half or training at her house, where her husband built her a training platform, or at the gym.
“It’s hard to juggle work, home, training, traveling for work,” she said. “My mom owns an embroidery shop and I’m taking it over, so my schedule is pretty stacked. I don’t go out and drink. I don’t party with my friends. This is what I want to do, which is okay because I have a goal in mind and want to make it happen, and my husband fully supports me.”
Hampton wants to medal at a national meet, with her ultimate goal to be selected to go to an international competition and compete for the United States. She also wants to eventually branch into bodybuilding and bikini competitions.
“I love it and want to give it everything – for me, for my daughter who sees me,” she said, “and for family and other people in the community who support me.”