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The Californian

The Official Student-Run Newspaper of California High School

The Californian

The Official Student-Run Newspaper of California High School

The Californian

Senior outlifts the competition

Dihini Withana inspires female weightlifters
Senior+Dihini+Withana+preforms+a+split-stance+snatch+at+the+Youth+World+Weight+Lifting+competition+in+Albania+in+March+2023.+This+was+Withana%E2%80%99s+first+international+competition.
Dihini Withana
Senior Dihini Withana preforms a split-stance snatch at the Youth World Weight Lifting competition in Albania in March 2023. This was Withana’s first international competition.

Meet Cal High senior, Dihini Withana, a national weightlifter who has lifted her home country Sri Lanka to new heights.
Withana began weightlifting in August 2018, after her dad, Eran Withana, discovered a program for youth weightlifting at his gym.
Drawn to the solo nature of the sport, as well as the opportunity to build muscle, Withana decided to give it a try.
Since then, she has participated in countless weightlifting competitions, including five national competitions.
Her current best lifts are a snatch of 101 pounds and a clean and jerk of 121 pounds.
As a female weightlifter, Withana said that she had to learn to deal with prejudice in a male-dominated sport.
In 2019, Withana attended her first national competition and saw that she was one of the only girls to compete.
Nowadays, Withana said there is better representation between men and women in the sport. She said that she is really pleased to see how the gender gap has diminished over her weightlifting career.
“It’s really cool to see [women] breaking that boundary,” Withana said. “I think we’ve come a long way but there’s still so much more to go.”
But Withana feels that representation for people-of-color has been very slow to the game. When competing, she noted that national competitions felt less diverse compared to the competitions in San Ramon.
“In general, living in San Ramon, our teams are more diverse,” Withana said. “But when we go to the national competitions, it’s a lot less diverse.”
This wasn’t just Withana’s observation. Nearly 84 percent of Olympic weightlifters are caucasian, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Withana’s coach, Micheal Jenkins, said that when he first started lifting there were few women who competed.
“This idea that somehow men can’t learn how to get strong from women who are stronger than them is weird to me and I’d love the opportunity to change that,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said Withana not only gives other [weightlifters] her respect, but demands it herself.
Back in March, Withana attended the week-long Youth World Weightlifting competition in Albania. It was her first time competing internationally and she had the opportunity to demonstrate her skills alongside weightlifters from all over the world.
“It meant a lot to me because I represented Sri Lanka which is [my] home country,” Withana said, “It meant a lot to me for my identity.”
Eran Withana said he loved seeing his daughter representing his home country.
“I’m very proud as a dad,” he said.
Inspired by her achievements, Withana’s sister, Thevini Withana, took up the sport during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both sisters spent the year in lockdown training in a home gym.
Withana said her coach was very resourceful and accommodating by continuing to train her on Zoom with personalized workout videos.
Withana said her dad took two years to fully curate their home gym, which is complete with a weightlifting platform, squat rack, set of dumbbells, rowers, and a pull up bar.
Withana said that it was a way for her and her sister to pass the time.
Withana is competing at the 2023 USA Weightlifting North American Open Series II at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton later this month. This will be her first time competing in the junior division, rather than the youth division.
Withana said she now trains twice a week in order to prepare.
She hopes to continue weight lifting in college and plans on choosing a college based on their weightlifting facilities.

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About the Contributors
Nidhi Sudheendra, Staff Writer
Nidhi Sudheendra is a junior and a first time reporter at The Californian. She wants to specialize in social media and photography. Nidhi has been a dancer for 10 years and likes to read and watch Netflix in her free time. She is very excited to join the newspaper and explore photography and social media. She also hopes to improve her writing.
Audrey Goddard, Staff Writer
Audrey Goddard is a senior joining The Californian for the first time as a staff writer. She hopes to further develop her writing skills and explore new writing techniques during her time in the newspaper. In her free time, she loves to write poetry, read, and make jewelry.   

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