MARQUETTE, Mich. – We’ve all experienced days that felt like the weight of the world was on our shoulders. For 23-year-old Yorkville, Ill., native Kyle Cook, the world weighs 374 pounds and he lifts it every day.
Cook is a resident athlete of the United States Olympic Education Center weightlifting program. Located on the campus of Northern Michigan University (Marquette, Mich.), the USOEC is one of four Olympic training centers in the country and the only one that offers athletes the opportunity to train and earn a college degree.
Before entering the USOEC weightlifting program, Cook played football and baseball at Yorkville High School. While those sports are common for many young men, Cook explains that his dad, Vince Cook, got him started in weightlifting.
“My dad was an Olympic lifter. [When we were younger], he worked out and my brothers and I had little plastic weights that we would use,” says Cook.
Cook continued to lift weights as he grew up, using the basement of his parent’s home to train for competitions.
After his high school graduation, Cook studied biology at the College of DuPage for two years until, one day, his father told him about the weightlifting opportunities at the USOEC. Cook had one question: Where’s NorthernMichiganUniversity?
It didn’t take long for Cook to find NMU, located along the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Now in his third year training with the USOEC, he is lifting a lot more than plastic weights. He balances his life as a senior biology major with his life as an athlete, training six days a week with seven other USOEC weightlifters from around the country.
In weightlifting, athletes use a combination of power and technique to lift weights on steel bars over their heads. There are two basic lifts – the snatch and the clean and jerk. In the snatch, weightlifters lift the barbell overhead in one steady movement. While performing the clean and jerk, athletes “clean” the bar to an intermediate position, squatting with the barbell resting in front of their neck, and then stand and jerk the barbell above their head.
“I lift 134 kilograms (294.8 pounds) in the snatch and 170 kg (374 lbs.) in the clean and jerk,” says Cook, who weighs in at 178 lbs.
Cook lives on NMU’s campus with his teammates and 80 other USOEC athletes training in four other sports, which include boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, short track speedskating and women’s freestyle wrestling.
He is surrounded by Olympians, Olympic hopefuls and scholars as he pursues his dream of making the 2008 Olympic Team and earning a college degree. All USOEC athletes attend NMU or MarquetteSenior High School while training in their respective sports. The student athletes receive access to world-class training facilities as well as sports medicine and sports science services, academic tutoring, free or reduced room and board, and free or reduced tuition through the B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarship Program.
The scholarship is funded by Congress and has provided financial assistance to more than 200 student athletes to continue their education while training for elite athletic competition. Cook recognizes the B.J. Stupak Scholarship as being essential to his development and the development of other athletes.
“It is a fantastic opportunity,” says Cook. “All the [athletes] here are doing the same thing – training and going to class. The Stupak Scholarship gave me that opportunity. A lot of people wouldn’t be here without it.”
When his time with the USOEC is over, Cook plans to graduate with a degree in biology and return to the Yorkville area to pursue a degree in medical illustration.
“I love to draw. I think I’ve been drawing since I first lifted a pencil,” he says.
Cook is lifting a lot more than a pencil these days. While he may not be carrying the actual weight of the world on his shoulders, his time spent training at the USOEC is helping to build a solid foundation to achieve his dreams.
To learn more about Cook, the B.J. Stupak Scholarship or the USOEC, visit http://www.nmu.edu/usoec.