BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — One week after almost setting a national record at a lift-off at Niskayuna High School, 13-year-old Jasmine Nautel was again the center of attention March 11 in the high school’s fitness center.
Wearing a T-shirt explaining she’s “Stronger than the average girl,” Jasmine’s initial attempts at the clean-and-jerk lift had boys a few years her senior pausing their own workouts to watch the 91-pound Van Antwerp Middle School seventh-grader.
Jasmine — who is coached by her father, Keith Nautel — is used to attention. A weightlifter since she was a little shy of her second birthday and tagging along with her father to the gym, she has won numerous competitions. Notably, she won her division’s title at the 2014 Liberty Games and was ranked No. 1 in the country for a spell of several months in her division. Currently, she is in preparation for the 2015 USA Weightlifting National Youth Championships, which will be held in June at Minnesota’s Mall of America.
“Weightlifting is definitely something that I look forward to doing after the school day,” said Jasmine. “I like getting into the gym — and, then, doing my homework, of course.”
While Jasmine has shown a propensity for lifting for nearly her entire life, her father said it has been a priority to make sure her life is well-rounded. Jasmine said she spends most of her free time reading — “I’m really into the ‘Percy Jackson’ series,” she said — and she participates in Girl Scouts. She has an artistic flair and has had several paintings on display in exhibits at The Egg in Albany. Plus, this year, she began competing as a wrestler for Niskayuna’s modified team, and she also belongs to several wrestling clubs outside school.
Tom DeLancey coached Jasmine at the modified level this winter and said she finished the season with a 5-8-2 record. She competed only against boys and she’s not a finished product in the sport. DeLancey said there’s an obvious potential for Jasmine in grappling.
“Her strength definitely does help her,” said DeLancey. “There were times where, technique-wise, the kid she was wrestling was better than her — but she was stronger, and she was able to either win or hold her own and make it more of a match than it should have been because of her strength.” Jasmine’s top skill on the wrestling mat is taking advantage of an opponent’s blunder. If her opponent left an opening for Jasmine to strike and use her strength, DeLancey had a simple summary of his fate: “That kid was done.”
With her school wrestling season complete, Jasmine has been able to turn her focus more fully to weightlifting. At the March 4 lift-off at the high school, Jasmine came up just short of matching a national record in the clean — a standing lift in which the athlete takes the barbell from the floor to shoulder height in a single movement. Her final attempt that day came at 46.3 kilograms (102.1 pounds) and the all-time national record for a female youth competitor in the 39-kilogram division is 47.0 kilograms (103.6 pounds).
Keith Nautel said he is unsure which weight class Jasmine will compete at for June’s national championships, in which Niskayuna High School junior Ethan Schalekamp has also qualified to compete, also with Keith as his coach. Jasmine is likely to compete at the national championships at 44 kilograms in the 13U division, but it is possible she could trim a little weight to compete in the 39-kilogram division so she could again go after the national record she just missed at the Niskayuna lift-off.
If that does not happen, though, that’s OK. Jasmine’s long-term goal is to lift at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but her short-term focus is to make sure she keeps lifting because there are few places she’d rather be than working out alongside her father.
“I love the competitions and the feeling you get after you get a new personal record,” she said. “It just makes you feel so good.”
Jasmine Nautel, a seventh-grader at Niskayuna’s Van Antwerp Middle School, is a competitive weightlifter. At 91 pounds, she often is lifting more than she weighs. Here are her personal-record lifts, as of March 12, in kilograms and pounds:
Back squat: 54.4, 120
Clean: 46.0, 101.4
Clean and jerk: 43.5, 95.9
Deadlift: 82.1, 181
Snatch: 31.5, 69.4