Nithi to represent U.S. at World Championships

Photo courtesy of Arthi Nithi

She waited four days. Four days of preparing, sweating kilograms and keeping herself warmed up between events. Four days of consulting spreadsheets and trainers to plan her strategy.

For Arthi Nithi, a powerlifter, those 96 hours boiled down to a matter of minutes.

“You’re only given a minute to complete your lift,” Nithi said. “It’s all timed. You do each lift three times, so I’m only on display for a total of nine minutes.”

Nithi left quite an impression at the USA Powerlifting Nationals, held last weekend in downtown Atlanta. Her performance earned her a spot on the United States national team, alongside whom she will compete next summer in Minsk, Belarus.

To understand how Nithi got to that point, though, one must understand the third-year New Jersey native’s beginnings. As a senior at Wayne Valley High School, she was inspired to improve her fitness.

When she came to Tech, she found a community that was ready to transform her from an enthusiast into a competitor.

“I joined [the Georgia Tech Barbell Club] because I was … super into fitness, and there was a mentorship program, and I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s give it a try.’”

Her mentor was Fedor Klimov, another Tech student and Barbell Club veteran who immediately noticed her talent.

“She was doing a lifestyle fitness routine,” Klimov said. “Nothing serious. But after our first session, I knew she had the potential to go far in powerlifting.”

Klimov’s intuition was spot-on: Nithi quickly displayed an aptitude for the sport. As it so  happened, a gym run by Tech and Barbell Club alumnus Obi Anachebe and Citadel Nutrition had just opened. It provided a perfect training space for Nithi.

“Luckily, it was completed right when I got into powerlifting, so that was the end of my first semester,” Nithi said of the serendipitous timing. “That gym kind of has more equipment geared towards competitive lifting. So I started going there, and it just picked up from there. I was training … with the intent of competing.”

The training came with a cost. In Summer 2015, she injured her back after repetitive training. Not knowing whether the pain was caused by typical post-exercise fatigue or something else, Nithi pushed too hard.

“[I] took a break from powerlifting,” Nithi said of the next six months of recovery. However, she did not leave the gym.

“I basically wasn’t compressing my back or loading that much weight on my back. … By January [2016], I was completely healed,   and that’s when I started training for my first competition.”

That was Lift for Life, a local meet at which Nithi would have her first opportunity to impress judges and begin paving her way to the national competition.

Competitors have to meet certain marks in local or state competitions in order to advance. Nithi made it on her first try.

From the summer onwards, Nithi trained for nationals.

“This actually ran four days, and there were multiple platforms,” Nithi said of nationals.

She was grouped by age class  and weight in order to ensure she was competing against fair rivals.

The nerves leading into the national competition were significant for Nithi, who was only in her first full season as a powerlifter. Over the next four days, her performance would determine whether she was good enough to represent her country.

“I actually sweated half a [kilogram] the night before because I was so nervous,” Nithi said. “It sounds crazy, but I was so jittery and so nervous. Because this was my second meet, … people come in with more experience, and there were just so many expectations … because I knew going in that I had a good chance of winning the teen category.

“I was nervous until my first lift, my first squat, but once I hit that, all my nerves started to settle down. After my second lift, I was like, ‘This is fine.’”

Nithi and her trainers had done their homework. They scouted her competition and she knew the numbers she needed to achieve to move on. They were well within her reach.

Her teammates within the GT Barbell Club were instrumental to her success.

“It’s basically a big community,” Nithi said. “A large part of it is a community of people who come together who like to lift. … One of the greatest things is how supportive everyone is. … You have people from different ages, different backgrounds who all come together just to support you.

“When it comes to that lift and you’re hit with your nerves and there are people cheering you on, that always means something.”

At the end of the weekend, Nithi waited with bated breath to find out if she had made the cut to accompany U.S. teammates to Belarus next summer for the international competition. She quickly learned that she had.

“I was just like, ‘This is crazy.’ The fact that I just started and I was given this opportunity, I think it’s still sinking in. … I think I was just lucky, too, with the meet being in Atlanta, having all these opportunities and resources.”

Nithi has more competitions to prepare for, between Arnold Sports Festival, whose namesake is Arnold Schwarzenegger,  and the World Championships. She is no doubt a heavyweight contender moving forward.