The journey of a Mormon Olympic weightlifter

Published: Wednesday, May 16 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

“There was not much time with mom. She had all the duties. She did everything,” Sarah said. “The most difficult part (with my dad) was the lack of communication. With him it was an endless game of charades for six years.”

Dennis Robles died in 2006. Although Sarah can’t recall the sound of his voice, she cherishes several good memories and important lessons.

“He taught me how to work, how to survive and earn something for my family. You realize things happen in life and it stinks, but what are you going to do about it? You can’t just sit there and sob, you’ve got to learn how to overcome those problems and keep pushing forward for a happy life.”

According to Sarah, Dennis Robles’ health problems and death had a traumatizing effect on her older brother, Glen. As a result, their sibling relationship was strained.

“When I went to college, I was so relieved,” she said. “I didn’t want to see or talk to him ever again.”

Had it not been for her friends and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, finding forgiveness and healing would have been difficult.

Spiritual strength

While Dennis Robles was raised Methodist and Joy was Catholic, Sarah said she didn’t really have a religious foundation growing up. Even so, her mother supported her religious curiosity.

“We allowed her to go and choose,” Joy said.

Many of Robles’ track and field teammates were Latter-day Saints. One day she asked if she could attend worship services and was welcomed with open arms. Robles went and was touched when an instructor gave a lesson centered on Jesus as the great shepherd.

“I started crying and went into the hall. I couldn’t understand why I was crying,” she said. “Someone told me I was feeling the Spirit.”

Robles spent five months investigating the LDS Church and meeting with the missionaries. The teachings were easy for her to understand. There was some resistance from an old pastor, but Robles was undaunted. She was baptized in July 2006.

“Finally, it fit. Everything was there,” she said. “It was like it was already implanted in me.”

In joining the LDS Church, Sarah learned her maternal grandparents were Latter-day Saints, as well as other extended family members, including her cousin, San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle.

“I couldn’t believe it — I had all these LDS ties,” Sarah said. “My family was very supportive.”

Since she was baptized, Robles said the gospel has provided her with a new perspective in life and helped her to heal from past wounds.

“I’ve been working on a lot of forgiving issues, and the gospel has helped,” she said. “Stuff happens and sometimes its nobody's fault. People have problems and that’s OK. They are hard to deal with, but as the years go by, the more I pray for comfort, the wounds start to heal. They are still there, but in the future we will all be made whole. The feelings, the pains and agonies we all face, will be gone and we will all have happiness. I continue to have faith that those things will happen.”

Physical strength

As a member of the San Jacinto High track team, Sarah competed in the shot put, discus and hammer throwing events. To help her improve strength, coach Rich McClure taught Robles some Olympic weightlifting methods.

After high school, Robles accepted a track and field scholarship to the University of Alabama, but when things didn’t work out, she transferred to Arizona State.

In 2008, Robles met Joe Micela, a strength and conditioning coach at Performance One, a health and fitness training facility in Mesa, Ariz.

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