Young weight lifter has sights on Junior Olympics

Jasmine Nautel, 12, will travel to Iowa after taking gold in state event

Jasmine Nautel

Jasmine Nautel stands tall after completing a lift during a training session at her home in Niskayuna. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

Gazette reporter


Nautel  lift

Nautel hoists a weight over her head during a training session. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

NISKAYUNA — Competitive weight lifter Keith Nautel couldn’t figure out why everyone was laughing at him. Was there something on his face? Each time he hoisted the bar over his head, the crowd at the weightlifting competition laughed. It was bad for his concentration. 

His wife, eventually, let Nautel in on the joke. Their 2-year-old daughter, Jasmine, whom he had corralled behind him near the lifting platform for safety, was mimicking his every move. With each of her father’s lifts, the youngster struggled unsuccessfully, determined to sweep a nearby weight over her head. 

That was 10 years ago. Today, nobody laughs when Jasmine Nautel, now 12 years old, lifts weights at competitions across the country. They just make a mental note to train a little harder. 

“I’ve been to the Junior Olympics two times, once in 2010 and once in 2013, and I’m going again this year during the summer,” Jasmine said. This year’s competition will be in Des Moines, Iowa. “That’s going to be a long drive,” she said. 

Most recently, she took gold at the New York State Olympic Lifting Championships earlier this month. Her win earned her the top ranking in her 35-kilo weight class nationwide. 

It’s not easy being one of about 50 ranked lifters in the country aged 13 and under. Keith, a lifter himself, as well as a trainer and former gym owner, personally coaches both his daughters (Jasmine’s younger sister, Kennedy, also competes). Together, they’ve contended with growth spurts, gym age limits, equipment challenges, and more. 

There are only two gyms in the Capital Region that make exceptions allowing Jasmine to train using their equipment. Her young age excludes her from all the others. And once in the gym, her slight, 77-pound frame requires some creative maneuvering.

On the lateral pulldown machine, exercisers sit on a bench, feet planted, and haul down a bar that dangles above. But even on the smallest setting, Jasmine’s feet don’t reach the floor when she sits on the machine. She and her father solve the problem with some teamwork. 

“I have another lifter put her feet in front of her, and then I move the bar down,” Keith said. 

Even when she does get taller, the process poses some challenges. “We had a couple of growth spurts last year,” Keith said. “She grew almost four inches in three weeks, and I could immediately see it in the way she was moving under the bar,” he said. 

He adjusted her training, and Jasmine eventually returned to her medal-winning self. 

For Keith, who spent Father’s Day at the gym with his two strong daughters, Jasmine’s achievements are juxtaposed against a precarious beginning. “We didn’t think we were going to bring her home from the hospital,” he said. “She was more than a month premature.”  

But none of that matters to Jasmine, who has her sights set on the year 2020. “I’m going to miss graduation to be in the Olympics,” she promises.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.