At just 14 years old, Naomi Kutin has already established herself in the world of powerlifting garnering her first world record at the tender age of nine. While powerlifting may not seem the typical sport of choice for a young girl, Naomi has grown up with it. Naomi’s father is an accomplished powerlifter himself and now, after watching Naomi’s success, her younger brother Ari has also taken up the sport, making it a family affair.
Being an Orthodox Jew, Naomi sometimes encounters difficulties with her training and competition, as she can only eat certain foods and cannot travel or compete on Shabbat. Yet, despite these cultural barriers, Naomi has become known as arguably one of the strongest girl’s in the world and gained the nickname ‘Supergirl.’ Do not be fooled by her bright smile and petite stature, Naomi can lift nearly three-times her weight and is a force to be reckoned with in her sport of powerlifting.
Naomi and her mother, Neshama, took a break from Naomi’s busy day as a high school freshman and to speak with the WSF during her lunch break. Bubbling over with excitement and a cool sense of confidence one could only dream of at the age of fourteen, Naomi gave us a behind the scenes look at what it is like to be Supergirl.
WSF: Naomi, you began powerlifting at the age of eight and now six years later you are still very passionate about the sport. Where does your drive come from?
Naomi: There are a bunch of aspects that I think drive me to be passionate about powerlifting. One of those is definitely the fact that my family has helped me so much. While obviously I lift because I love it I also want to make my family proud and happy in what I’m doing. Another thing that drives me to be passionate about powerlifting is just all of the people that watch my videos and follow me on social media and encourage me. A lot of people support me not only my family but also people from all around the world and so I just love it.
WSF: As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, who do you admire and look to as a role model?
Naomi: I definitely see my mom as an amazing role model because she’s been through so many struggles in her life and she’s overcome them. She’s such a happy person and she always supports me and takes care of me. She always puts other people’s needs before her own needs. She’s just awesome.
WSF: You have gained the nickname Supergirl for your extraordinary weight lifting abilities. What does being Supergirl mean to you?
Naomi: Being Supergirl, I think it means that I’m very confident in myself. It means that I’m making an impact. I feel like it’s more than a nickname. It means that I am making a statement.
WSF: You are currently starring in the documentary, ‘Supergirl,’ which follows every aspect of your life and training. One of the difficulties covered in the documentary is cyber bullying, which I can imagine as a young teenage girl must be very difficult to deal with. How do you react when you see these comments and is there any advice you would give to other young girls who may be dealing with a similar problem?
Naomi: Yeah, when I see hate comments obviously it doesn’t make me feel very good. It is upsetting to see people feel that way but when you’re out on the Internet that’s going to happen and at some point someone is going to have a hate comment about you. So, when I see it I try to just surround myself with a lot of positivity. For other people who would be dealing with that, I would just say to surround yourself with people and things that make you happy. Also, if this person is cyberbullying you, whether you know them or they’re just a random person, if they’re writing a hate comment then they obviously don’t care about you and they don’t know you. So, then their opinion should not matter.
WSF: You have participated in numerous competitions and broken world records in the sport of powerlifting. What lessons do you feel you have learned through your sport that can transfer to your everyday life?
Naomi: Powerlifting has definitely taught me a lot of lessons that I take into my life. One of those would be to be confident because when you’re powerlifting, either at the gym or at a competition, if you don’t have confidence that you can lift the weights then it’s never going to happen. You have to have confidence in yourself and I’ve used that in my life a lot. Before I started powerlifting and even a year or two into powerlifting I wasn’t a very confident person at all. Even when I was eleven I remember I wasn’t that confident but through powerlifting I gained the confidence. Now obviously it’s something you always have to work on but I think I have a good healthy amount of confidence.
Neshama: I just want to say that this is Naomi’s first year in high school, she’s fourteen. She came to a high school where because we are in the private education system it’s not a feeder school that you go with the same kids throughout school, they mix them up. You get to apply to and then select which school you go to. So, not only is it her first year of high school but she’s with a whole lot of people that she never knew before. I don’t know about you but I know about me, and when I went to high school that’s just a time inherent to be without confidence. A lot of self-doubt and discovery and you just are not sure about anything in your life because everything in high school is kind of topsy-turvy anyway. For Naomi to have this confidence in her abilities and her strength is just such a firm foothold in terms of dealing with people, especially new people at school. She already has learned lessons that you don’t have to be everybody’s friend and you don’t have to love everybody but you do have to be respectful of everyone. She’s four or five steps ahead of a lot of adults even that I know.
WSF: Do you have a routine or something in particular you like to eat or a genre of music you like to listen to before you compete in a competition?
Naomi: Before I compete I definitely have a different routine. In terms of music, when I’m not in a psych mode before a competition I listen to a lot of pop and country. When I’m getting ready to compete I’m listening to a lot of rap and hip hop. Eating wise, I have a lot of protein shakes and protein bars and fruit before I lift.
Neshama: We are Orthodox Jews so we keep kosher and a lot of the competitions that we go to are not necessarily in places where you’re going to find kosher restaurants to eat at. We also never know if we’re going to have a kitchenette or that kind of thing. In a lot of places where we travel to there’s no facilities available to prepare food. So what that means for me is that I prepare all of the food for everybody who’s going for the amount of time we are going. Competition wise our diet is a little different because I can’t cook and we don’t get hot food. Since most of the competitions are far away we end up kind of going to hard-boiled eggs, tuna, that kind of thing, which we may or may not typically eat at home. We adhere to a kosher diet so we just do what we have to do. It’s just a matter of adaptation.
WSF: How can a young boy or girl inspired by your story get into the sport of powerlifting?
Naomi: One thing that’s really good about powerlifting is that there’s no age restriction. They have to ask their parents first though, that’s very important. It’s also a good sport because you don’t need so much equipment you just need a bar and some plates. They also could get a trainer, that’s pretty important. I think it’s a pretty easy sport to get into because it’s very simple. They could research it a little or have their parents research it or look into it with their parents and then just learn to lift.
Neshama: I know Naomi knows this but it’s so much a part of her that I don’t think she recognizes that she should say this. When Naomi and her younger brother Ari started to lift we had rules because they weren’t old enough to join a gym. You have to be fourteen in this area to join a gym. So, we have equipment in our basement and of course the rule was we are going to come down here and we are going to show you correct form so you don’t get hurt. We are going to do long term incremental weight increases because you can’t come out the first time and max out, that’s just dangerous. The rules for us were you have to have an adult supervise you anytime you’re with the weights, whether that was with me or my husband, but you can’t come down here and do it by yourself and when you have friends over you can show them the weights but you’re not allowed to touch it unless there’s an adult here. I really firmly believe in setting rules and boundaries and that I think is a really important one. Not because you want to withdraw the opportunity but because you want to make sure that when they’re touching the weights it’s a very safe and very positive thing for them.
WSF: What is your dream in regards to what you hope to accomplish in the world of powerlifting?
Naomi: Well I’ve already broken an all-time world record, which obviously was so cool. At this point though, I’ve grown since I broke the record and am in a different weight class now where the records are much higher. When I was nine, ten, eleven, twelve and maybe even thirteen, I think my goal was just to break world records since that was what I was doing all the time. Now, I still break records but I think my goal has shifted more to just doing what I believe I’m capable of and what I think my best is and trying my hardest because that’s all you can do really it just do your best. I just want to stick with it and just do my best and if I break more records that’s just the cherry on top of a very delicious cake.
Neshama: I want to tell you a really cute story about Naomi.
Naomi: Oh no…
Neshama: Well, I’m the mom and I get to tell cute stories. That’s part of being the mom. The night that Naomi broke the world record she was nine. We have bedtime routines and I was tucking her into bed and it was just a normal night for her. As she’s lying in her bed all sleepy-eyed she looked at me and she said, ‘Mommy, what’s your first world record in?’ and I said, ‘Honey, I don’t have a world record. Most people don’t have world records.’ She said, ‘Really?’ I think one of the most remarkable things about all children is they don’t have preconceived notions of they can’t they just go out and do because it’s fun and they can. If there was one thing that I would like for Naomi to be able to keep, and she’s done a good job of this so far, is just keep that possibility of ‘I can’ open for as long as she can before any of the adult pressures start filling [her] head with ‘I can’t.’ That’s so important for any athlete of any age. I think if you start filling your head with ‘I can’t’ then you’re not very successful and you’re frustrated.
Supergirl the Documentary:
Supergirl is a feature length documentary that tells the remarkable coming of age story of Naomi "Supergirl" Kutin, a modern Orthodox Jewish girl and world record holding powerlifter.
When Naomi Kutin, a nine-year-old modern Orthodox Jewish girl, sets a powerlifting world record, – "Supergirl" is born. SUPERGIRL follows Naomi’s coming of age journey into her early teens, as she fights to hold on to her title. Along with the universal struggles of adolescence, Naomi is faced with strict religious obligations, cyberbullying, and serious health issues that jeopardize her ability to continue powerlifting. Can she still be “Supergirl” if she can no longer break world records? Ultimately, as she grows up, she must learn to accept herself and discover that her true strength is not in her muscles but in her heart.
The filmmakers are currently running a crowd-funding campaign to complete the film. You can support the project here: bit.ly/supergirlks