Tiny Tara Nott became the first U.S. athlete in 40 years, as the women's version of the sport debuted in Sydney, to win an Olympic gold medal in weight lifting. Nott's achievement came at the expense of Bulgarian lifter Izabela Dragneva, who initially won the gold but was disqualified after failing a doping test. Thus Nott, 28, who had won the silver with a total lift of 407 3/4 lbs. in the 106-lb. weight class, became the Olympic champion.
An Olympic medal is a dream that Nott has been chasing since she was a schoolgirl. Slightly built, she was an accomplished gymnast but didn't make an Olympic team. She picked up volleyball and basketball and then zeroed in on soccer, making several national teams. She failed to make the team that competed in the 1996 Olympics, but a job with the Games' organizing committee got her to Atlanta anyway, and she took up weight lifting to stay in shape. "Tara's athletic background, mental toughness, physical gifts give her a great foundation for any sport, including weight lifting," says U.S. women's team coach Mike Cohen.
Nott, who at 5 ft. 1 in. and 105 lbs. looks like a pixie gymnast, claims she was not interested in competing as a weight lifter. She got hooked when she won nationals a mere eight months after her introduction to barbells. "It just came naturally to me," she says. The obvious question for her: What sport doesn't?
--By Sally B. Donnelly