Brandi Darby Becomes First Blind Weightlifter to Place At National Event

In late July, the American Open Series 2 weightlifting competition took place in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. This competition was big for a few reasons. First, it served as the last US national competition that will use the old weightlifting bodyweight categoriesSecond, it’s one of the main events used to qualify athletes for the American Open Finals. And last, but certainly not least, it was the first competition that a blind athlete has ever placed on a national stage.

Late last week, USA Weightlifting published a story covering 90kg weightlifter Brandi Darby who became the first blind athlete to place on a national stage. The story was incredibly motivating and too good to pass up, so we wanted to highlight the awesome feat here for those who may have missed it.

Darby competed in the women’s over 35 category and finished her meet with a 65kg snatch, a 70kg clean & jerk, which earned her a third place 135kg total. 

Editor’s Note: Weightlifting athlete, coach, and historian Artie Drechsler brought it to our attention that Artie Ehman, a legally blind athlete, placed third in the open division of a regional Jr. Nationals in 1958. Ehman lifted a 860 lb. total (275-265-320; the press was tested at the time) weighing 225 ¼ pounds.

She told USA Weightlifting that when she started practicing Olympic lifting, she never had intentions of placing at a National contest. In fact, she explained that she wanted to serve as an example for others who may be too timid to try the sport. Darby told USA Weightlifting, “There are a lot of us who don’t have the confidence to try this or any sport because the challenges seem bigger than the possibilities.”

Darby’s love for weightlifting began Soon after joining a CrossFit gym. After joining the gym, Darby signed up for a weightlifting class to evade an 800 meter run that was RX’d in a CrossFit workout, then quickly fell in love with the sport. Eventually, Darby sought out a coach that would understand and work with her disability, which led her to find Coach Tom Duer at the Pittsburgh Fitness Project Barbell Club. 

Darby told USA weightlifting, “Now that I’m with a coach who isn’t deterred by my vision, I worry more about environmental things. Will I be able to see the judges and their cues? Will the lights on stage be in my eyes and distract me? What stair, cords or apparatuses might I trip over because of my lack of depth perception?”

After officially beginning her competition career at local meets in February 2018, Darby has already exceeded what many would call a successful weightlifting career.

To conclude their awesome story, Darby told USA Weightlifting, “I want to thank USAW for cultivating a culture of inclusion for people with disabilities like mine. I’ve tried a lot of sports in my life, this is the only one I didn’t quit for lack of support.”

Feature image from USA Weightlifting YouTube channel. 

Editor’s Note: BarBend is the Official Media Partner of USA Weightlifting. The two organizations maintain editorial independence unless otherwise noted on specific content projects.