Having never lifted competitively before 2018, Mary Theisen-Lappen’s recent emergence as the new American record holder in the Women’s Clean & Jerk might seem like an unlikely Cinderella story. For those who knew her as a decorated track and field athlete, though, Mary’s unique strength, discipline, and competitive nature were always evident. Only the implements have changed.
A multi-sport athlete during her high school days in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Theisen-Lappen focused on track in college, excelling at throwing events first at Winona State (winning five All-America awards), then Indiana State, where she picked up three NCAA Division I citations and won Most Outstanding Field Athlete at the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championship. After graduating with a Sports Management degree, Mary went into coaching, finding great success as the throws coach at UW-Oshkosh while also earning her Masters in Education Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri.
For several years, Theisen-Lappen was away from the competitive ranks herself, but a new challenge was soon presented to her, as a former college teammate encouraged Mary to try her hand at competing not with a javelin or a discus, but with a barbell.
Finding time to train in weightlifting during the midst of her coaching duties, Theisen-Lappen quickly gained the attention of the USAW, and when she completed a potential US-record 163KG Clean & Jerk at the Arnold Festival in 2020, everybody took notice (that lift was red-lighted for a pressout, but the proof was in the pudding).
Sure enough, at the 2022 Arnold in Columbus, Mary officially claimed the new women’s C&J record at 163KG, and also bested 2-time Olympic medalist Sarah Robles to win the overall gold at 278 KG (163KG C&J + 115KG Snatch). Rather than feeling like she reached the mountaintop, Mary only came away from the win more determined to see how far she can go. It’s all powered by a growing confidence and a feeling of comfort in her own skin.