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At the Junior Olympics, Brooke got the chance to inspire some other girls, who were there for the gymnastics competitions.

“I told them, ‘Not only guys lift. Girls can do it, too,’” she said. “It’s nice to be a role model to younger and older kids, both guys and girls.”

Some of those same girls asked to take pictures with Olive.

“I said, ‘OK, OK, OK, that’s enough,’” Olive said, sounding exasperated. “I have lots of fans.”

Phil Stevens said he was honored to be their coach, and he encouraged more youths to get involved in lifting. While a balance is necessary - Stevens cautioned against pushing kids too hard - powerlifting can be a great boost for a kid’s confidence and self-esteem.

“Kids aren’t active enough anymore,” he said. “If powerlifting is done right, it can be a huge help in their athletic and personal lives.”

Strength Guild, which operates out of a gym at Stevens’ home off near S.E. 6th and Croco, has about a dozen members younger than 18, and about another 30 adults, he said.

The gym invested in special equipment for Olive and the other youths, such as a 15-pound bar instead of the 45.

Although strength got her started, Olive’s first love is, and probably always will be, gymnastics. Even during lifting meets, she will be practicing her cartwheels and tumbling moves between lifts, Sarah Stevens said.

After just six months of private lessons, Olive recently was asked to join the Cage gymnastics team. Her first competition will be in November. Olive’s pride shines through her eyes and wide smile whenever she talks about it.

But her parents asked her to make a deal: Olive could keep doing gymnastics if she didn’t totally give up strength conditioning.

“We know how beneficial it is in sports and in life,” Sarah Stevens said. “A strong woman can take care of herself, and it makes them more confident. I want that for her.”

But the Stevens don’t push their young daughter too far: She sets her weightlifting schedule, and it usually is once a week. Some have been critical of them when they hear their 6-year-old powerlifts, Stevens said, but, to Olive, lifting is like playing.

“If we see something unsafe, we absolutely stop it,” she said. “But it’s what her parents do. Of course she wants to do it, too.”


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