From the gym to the world stage, CPA freshman lifts his way to international competition

From St. Louis to Bangkok, Thailand, weightlifting is introducing Antwan Kilbert to new experiences.

Kilbert is a freshman at Confluence Preparatory Academy. When he was 11, he started going to Lift for Life Gym with his older brother, Anthony. There, he learned about weightlifting. Soon after, he started competing in Olympic-style youth weightlifting for fun. Then, something changed and he got serious. So much so, that Kilbert, 15, competed at the 2017 International Weightlifting Federation Youth World Championships, held April 1-10 in Bangkok.

More on that in a moment.

What is Olympic-style weightlifting?
Jimmy Duke, coach at Lift for Life Gym, explained Olympic-style weightlifting. It involves two lifts - the snatch and a clean and jerk.

The snatch is when you pull the weight from the floor and move the bar directly over your head in one smooth movement. Competitors get three attempts to lift as much as they can.

The clean and jerk is when you pull the weight from the floor and catch the bar at the shoulders, then squat the weight to a standing position (clean), then drive the bar overhead (jerk). Competitors also get three attempts.

To rank athletes, the top snatch and top clean and jerk are added together for a total score.

Kilbert competes in the 56 kilo weight class, or 123 lbs.


Putting in the work
Kilbert has been with Confluence since fourth grade at Confluence Academy-Old North. His favorite subjects are math and physical science. He said the hard work and discipline he has to apply at Lift for Life Gym have to be applied to school.

Why? Because the sport can lead to a college scholarship.

Joseph Miller, executive director of Life for Life Gym, commented on Kilbert’s growth.

“Antwan started making strides after about two years at the gym. He could see the exposure to the world and to the sport by working hard and setting goals,” said Miller. “In the last year, he’s taken it to another level.”

“I want to be the best,” said Kilbert. He quietly mentioned he’d like to compete in the Olympics.

Kilbert trains 3 ½ hours, six days a week.

It takes more than physical strength to prepare for his future in the sport and in life. He knows that he has to pay attention to what’s going on around him. “I have to be careful about who I hang out with. I have to be careful about what I post online because the USA Team is watching.”

And, of course, there are the expectations of his mother. Without saying much, he let it be known that his mom is serious, and supportive. But, she was nervous about the trip. “You know how moms get,” he smiled. So, he called her every day from Thailand.  

Journey to Thailand
To get to the Youth World Championships, Kilbert competed in qualifying events. In December, he went to the American Open in Orlando, Fla. In February, he went to the Junior National Championships in Kansas City, Mo.

At junior nationals, a 20-and-under meet, Kilbert lifted a 93 kilo (207 lbs.) snatch and 110 kilo (247 lbs.) clean and jerk. He won first place and got noticed by USA Weightlifting.

“Antwan needed to qualify as one of the top eight athletes in the country. They have a system that ranks all weight classes based on what each total is estimated to finish at the world championships. They take the top eight people they think will finish the highest, and Antwan ranked fifth for the team,” said Duke.

Traveling to Bangkok meant it was Kilbert’s first passport and his first time out of the country. The 19-hour trip started by boarding a plane in St. Louis, traveling to Chicago, New York and Dubai before finally landing in Bangkok.

“It was awesome!” he said of Thailand. “There are lots of people because it’s overpopulated, and there were a lot of people on scooters.”

He spoke of palaces he described as “amazing” while touring the sights.

Of course, there were practices, where he worked out and watched other lifters.

At the competition, he was more “pumped up and nervous” than usual.

Kilbert snatched 93 kilos (205 lbs). The snatch ranked him 18th. His clean and jerk at 106 kilos (233 lbs) placed him 25th.

Miller noted that Kilbert was the youngest person on the team. He is one of two athletes from Lift for Life Gym who went to the world event. Jerome Smith, who attends Cleveland NJROTC, went as an alternate but did not compete.

“It’s the largest platform to make it to,” said Miller. “It’s a long way from competing locally and at regional events to make it to representing the U.S.”

“To have two of the top young weightlifting prospects from the same gym is great for followers of the gym, and the young kids who attend the gym on a daily basis because they can see how hard work pays off,” said Duke.

“They realize if they work hard and follow their dreams, this sport can take them out of their neighborhoods and they can see what the world has to offer, and not just what they see in St. Louis.”
Photo credits: Competition photos are from Lift For Life Gym's Facebook page.