Interacting through weightlifting

Saturday September 12, 2020 Written by Published in Other Sports

Briseis Crighton (pictured) is 13 years old and lives in Arorangi. She doesn’t like to make eye contact when someone is paying attention to her but you’d be wrong to assume that she is shy or lacks confidence. In fact, she’s the complete opposite.

Briseis is autistic. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects cognitive, sensory, and social processing. The condition changes the way a person sees the world and interacts with others

One way that Briseis sees the world and interacts with others is through weightlifting. She communicates her love for the sport through predictable routine, intense training and meticulous attention to technique. What makes Briseis seem ‘different’ outside the gym is what makes her special in the gym.

“She has the character traits every athlete needs to become outstanding as a lifter,” said coach Geoff Halston. It’s not uncommon to hear other lifters say they wish they could be more like Briseis. 

Mum Wanaka Crighton describes what happened the first time Briseis lifted: “She wasn’t able to follow through with the lift. In that moment Briseis was focused and more determined than ever to hit her target goals given to her by her coach Geoff and trainer Luisa Peters”.

Wanaka said her “heart is full” watching Briseis develop and improve as a lifter.

Name: Briseis Crighton

Island representing: Pukapuka

How long have you been lifting? 1 year

How has weightlifting benefitted you? I feel good after a workout! Is it easy? No! Is it worth it? Absolutely!

What do you love about weightlifting? Everything!

What is your favourite lift? Clean & jerk

Is there a weightlifter you admire? Luisa Peters (Luisa is a former Cook Islands Olympiad and national weightlifting champ).

Question for mum Wanaka. How has weightlifting changed Briseis’ life? With each training session I can see the fire and passion in her to achieve. The self-doubt is nonexistent. She is beaming on the inside. I’ve had some heated discussions with people who have voiced their opinions about me allowing my daughter to weightlift. They’ve said her body is going to bulk and be manly. The stigma on this topic is closed minded. The benefits of weightlifting are that it strengthens her mind, enhances her body and she is comfortable in her own skin. We now live a healthier lifestyle at home. That’s been a big adjustment, introducing different foods to a child on the autism spectrum, but it’s working. She inspires me. Briseis is my role model.

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