SANTA FE – Ulysses, also known as Odysseus, was the legendary Greek king of Ithaca.
Renowned for his brilliance and guile, “Odysseus the Cunning” was the hero of the Trojan War – made famous by his “Trojan Horse” ploy to capture the city of Troy.
So when it came time for Dan and Mara Yarbrough to name their youngest child, the choice was clear.
“We have an older son named Finn – after Finn McCool, the Gaelic hero. So when the younger son was on the way, we decided we wouldn’t name him anything less,” Dan said. ” … We decided to name our youngest Ulysses, after the brilliant tactician.”
No pressure, right?
But while just 11 years old, the 4-foot-8 Ulysses Yarbrough is already growing into his epic name. He’s known for his cunning – the La Mariposa Montessori scholar is a former champion in the Santa Fe County Spelling Bee. And now, the young Ulysses can consider himself one of the strongest kids in the country.
He recently set an American record at the USA National Youth Weightlifting Championships, which concluded earlier this month in St. Joseph, Mo. The event featured more than 350 contestants from around the country.
The pocket-size Ulysses etched his name into the record books with a snatch of 99 pounds. Along with a clean-and-jerk of 121 pounds, Ulysses’ total weight was enough to win ages 13-and-younger, 39-kilogram weight class.
“I knew I could do it,” Ulysses said. “I just had to stay focused and work hard to put in place all my training.”
Ulysses’ teammate from Inner Strength and Fitness – the Santa Fe-based gym Dan Yarbrough owns – was 14-year-old Jessica Sipos of Preston, Idaho, who spends part of her summer in the City Different. She took home a silver medal in the ages 14 and 15 category, with a combined lift of 292.6 pounds.
The USAW championship meet is widely considered the pinnacle Olympic weightlifting competition held in the country. Olympic weightlifting consists of two disciplines, the snatch – lifting a barbell from a platform to a locked-arm overhead position in a smooth, continuous movement – and the clean-and-jerk – a two-part lift, including moving a weighted barbell from the floor to a racked position across the chest, and then lifting the weight above the head until the arms are straight and the bar is stationary.
So what’s next for Ulysses, who was a silver medalist last year in his debut at the meet? With his mom an accomplished athlete who competed at Harvard in track and field, and father a USAW-certified trainer and coach, it appears the junior Olympics are well within reach for the precocious 11-year-old.
That is, as long as Ulysses wants it to be, Dan said.
“It’s absolutely Uly’s choice what he wants to do,” Dan said. ” … Our philosophy is that it’s his free choice that’s making him so strong. Without that as the anchor, his unusual strength would fall apart. You can’t make someone do this.
“But, at the same time, every fifth practice or so, there is a discussion about getting going – roughly the same discussion as our discussion with him getting his room cleaned up. In the course of all this, we’re still dealing with a boy.”