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Interview: Stephanie Palacol
Matt Foreman

If you’ve been following American weightlifting for an extended length of time, you know that there’s been a population explosion in recent years, especially in the women’s division. The old “lifting weights makes women look bad” mentality has been tossed in the trash where it belongs, and record numbers of ladies are dedicating themselves to the sport. Some of them are exceptionally talented. This is where Stephanie Palacol’s name comes into the conversation.
 
I met Stephanie (or “Stevie” to many of us) a few years ago, almost right when she started in weightlifting. It didn’t take a genius to see this gal was blessed with some tools to move up the ladder quickly. In just a little under three years of focused training, she won the silver medal at the 2014 American Open with a 80 kg snatch (176 lbs.) and 100 kg C&J (220 lbs.) in the 58 kg weight class (128 lbs.). Stevie has already broken into the upper levels of our national rankings, and her potential to go higher is plain to see.
 
And like so many American weightlifters, she’s currently “living the life” of trying to balance her job demands and training schedule. Lifters don’t have it easy in our US system (or lack of a system, actually), but Stevie is determined to plow through the obstacles on her way to continued success in the sport. Let’s take a look at the life of this rising star.
 
Tell us about your background. Where are you from, where do you currently live, what’s your occupation, family life, what kind of sports background do you have outside of lifting,
Etc.

 
I was born and raised in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I lived there until I was 18, then moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to attend college. I currently live in Charlotte, North Carolina with my boyfriend Brett Nenaber and my two rescue pups Tank and Tonka. My profession is athletic training. I work for Carolinas Healthcare System as an athletic trainer, serving local high schools in the area. My family still lives in Hawaii and run the family restaurant, Quinn’s Almost by the Sea. As a child, I was always involved in sports. I played volleyball and soccer in high school. In college, I found a love for the weight room, but never though about lifting competitively. All I wanted to do was get strong. I did not start weightlifting until June 2012.
 
Describe your weightlifting history. When/how did you start? Who have your coaches been? What are your proudest accomplishments?
 
There is not much of a history to explain. I started lifting in June 2012. My boyfriend Brett started adding Olympic lifts into my programs. After noticing that I was pretty good at these movements, I decided to enter my first competition in August 2012 at East Valley CrossFit. This is where my love for weightlifting began. At this first competition I qualified for the 2012 American Open. My first competition total was 129, snatch 52k and clean and jerk 77k. At the 2014 American Open, I ended up 2nd overall with a competition total of 180. I owe my success in the sport to my Coach Brett and my weightlifting family at East Valley CrossFit. During my time at EVCF, I was able to train with Alex Lee and was able to be coached by Shahin Nasiri Nia. I hope to have the opportunity to train with these two amazing people again.
 
Please give a basic description of your training method. Just tell us as much as you can about your program, weekly/yearly planning, etc.
 
In a year, I usually complete three 16-week training periods. Each cycle is four weeks long, so have four cycles every period. The first cycle is usually high volume and moderate intensity to build muscular endurance. The second cycle is a strength phase with moderate volume and moderate intensity and third is a strength-power phase (my favorite). The last cycle is usually a competition cycle that will prepare me for a big competition. During this cycle, I max every week to prepare physically and mentally for competition. I only train four to five days a week, due to working a full time job. Four days a week I will complete a clean and snatch variation and I squat three days a week. My training sessions are usually one and a half to two hours long and I train in my home.
 
Describe some of the obstacles you face, or maybe some things that frustrate you in your weightlifting life. What kinds of changes would you like to see, either personally or with the sport in general?
 
The obstacle that I currently face is training alone. After leaving the environment at EVCF, it has been hard to find anything like that out here in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lifting alone has caused me to have low motivation and I find myself losing love for the sport. Another obstacle is working a full time job that has late hours. In my weight class, I am competing against many women who have been training over five years to a decade. They have the upper hand, having so much competition experience. I hope I can find a job that will allow me to train more, thus allowing me to become more competitive in my weight class.
 
This sport is so beautiful and I hope that more people have the honor to be a part of it in their lifetime. CrossFit has done a great job bringing light to the sport, but we still have so far to go. I would love to see more AAU clubs created around the nation that will bring the sport to the youth. Most youth are performing a variation of Olympic lifts with their high school sports teams. I believe it is our duty as ambassadors of the sport to donate our time and teach these students the correct technique and educate them.
 
What are your plans and goals for your weightlifting career? How do you see your future in the sport?
 
My goal is to qualify for a world team. I still have a ways to go, but I believe that I have the drive and ability to do so. Since I have only been lifting for two and a half years, my body is strong and healthy and I have no history of serious injury. I see myself competing in weightlifting for a long time.
 
Who are some of your major influences, people you look up to, etc.? Who are the people you want to thank for your success?
My major influences in the sport are Alex Lee and Morghan King. For those of you who have had the opportunity to watch Alex lift, you know why I look up to him. He is a technician and embodies the meaning of speed and power. As for Morghan, she is amazing. Only a few years after dedicating all of her training to weightlifting, she became an American superstar of the sport. She has competed on multiple world teams and has shown all of us it is possible even if you have not been lifting forever. Both she and Alex are training at the Olympic Training Center. I can only hope to be able to train at the OTC with them.
 
First, I would like to thank Brett for providing me with the best programming that fits my life and the time constraints I have. Thank you, August Schmidt for giving me a home to lift in while living in Arizona. Also, thank you to everyone who I have ever lifted with at EVCF and for those who have cheered me on at the local meets held there. Thank you Iron Athlete Weightlifting team for being my long distance motivation. And last but not least, thank you to my sponsors Iron Athlete and Gnarly Nutrition.
 
You have a hell of an opportunity in front of you, Stevie. Keep banging away and don’t quit, because your potential to leave a big mark on this sport is ready and waiting. Gracias for sharing your life with our Performance Menu family! 
 

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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams. He is the author of the books Olympic Weightlifting for Masters: Training at 30, 40, 50 & Beyond and Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.


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