By Gloria Schwartz
If you’re looking for a positive young role model for your daughter or granddaughter, 17-year-old Jewish American powerlifting champion and multiple record holder Naomi Kutin of New Jersey fits the bill. Naomi – nicknamed Supergirl – began powerlifting at age eight. When she was nine and weighed 88 pounds, Naomi broke the world record for her weight class by squatting 205 pounds. With lots of determination, hard work and the support of her parents and four siblings, Naomi has continued to break regional and U.S. records as well as achieve new personal bests.
Naomi sees herself as a trailblazer in more ways than one. As well as shattering stereotypes by being a female in a male-dominated sport, she says that at some competitions she’s been the first Jew that people ever met.
It’s not just Naomi who’s passionate about powerlifting. Her father is her coach. Her mother is a health coach. Her father and her younger brother also compete in powerlifting. She says it’s an amazing feeling to have her family involved and cheering her on.
Participating in competitions while adhering to Orthodox Judaism poses some challenges, however there are no obstacles too great for the young, determined athlete and her family to overcome. The lack of kosher restaurants and kosher cooking facilities near competition venues means the family packs their own meals. They also accommodate their Shabbat observance. When women’s competitions fall on Shabbat, the event organizers accommodate Naomi by moving the event to Sunday or by permitting her to compete with the men on Sunday, both of which suit her and her family. When Naomi competes, she changes out of her modest Orthodox Jewish clothing and into the standard powerlifting singlet and t-shirt. Naomi and her family are comfortable with their decisions. And despite being in the minority at competitions in terms of gender and religion, Naomi says she’s never had any negative experiences.
Powerlifting is comprised of three events: the squat, the deadlift and the bench press. Naomi’s current records are a 321-pound squat, 365-pound deadlift and 132-pound bench press. Never one to shy away from challenges, Naomi is working towards and getting close to achieving her latest goals: a 350-pound squat, 400-pound deadlift and a 150-pound bench press. I asked her what advice she can give to young girls who are thinking about getting involved in any sport. She suggested talking to their parents, learning the basics, finding support in family or friends and setting goals.
“If it’s safe and you enjoy it, go for it,” advises Naomi, who wants girls to know the benefits of participating in sports include developing determination, self-discipline and being active and healthy.
Being known as Supergirl, Naomi feels some responsibility because she knows people are watching her. People tell her she inspires them or their daughters. She says it’s an opportunity that makes her want to be a good person.
In order to stay strong and fit, Naomi mostly eats healthy food including protein and vegetables. Sometimes she must lose a pound or two before a competition in order to meet a weight-class requirement, but she has a positive body self-image and indulges in junk food after a competition. She developed confidence being around and growing up with strong, confident women. A comment she often hears is, “You’re so small! Where are your muscles?” She says a common misconception that girls have about strength training is that they’ll develop big, bulky muscles.
Naomi trains one to two hours on weekdays, rests on Shabbat and trains most of the day on Sundays.
“I am someone who works really hard towards my goals and doesn’t give up until I get them,” she says. “I’m the most normal, ordinary person.”
Despite her incredible accomplishments, being the subject of a documentary called “Supergirl,” and all the media attention she’s received, Naomi has remained humble and lives a balanced life.
After graduating from high school this spring, Naomi is looking forward to taking a gap year and attending a seminary in Israel. If time permits, she hopes to fit in some training at the school gym. After that, she’s looking at university and possibly a career in genetics counselling. With her outstanding physical strength and a good head on her shoulders, Supergirl will undoubtedly become a Wonder Woman no matter what endeavours she decides to pursue.