She's already a gold medal favorite at the 2000 Sydney Games, where women's weight lifting will make its Olympic debut. All the more impressive is that, due to years needed to build muscle, weight lifters don't generally peak until age 30. Says coach Michael Cohen of his muscular prize pupil, who is flexible enough to do splits and boasts a standing 30-inch vertical jump: "You only come across this level of athlete once in a blue moon. She's the only school-age child to ever hold adult U.S. records."
The second of three daughters of Bob, an auto broker, and Sheila, an RN, Haworth found her calling in August 1996, when she walked into the gym where Cohen coaches to work out with her softball team. "It looked like a lot of fun," says the prize-winning artist and sophomore at the Savannah Arts Academy. And it gave her a lift, she says, to realize for the first time that her weight could be a plus. "Even though I'm walking around school and I'm way heavier than everybody," Haworth says, "I just think, 'I'm in better shape than you are. It just doesn't look like it.' "
At 5'9" and 290 pounds, 16-year-old Cheryl Ha worth might not appear to want to put on weight. But the Savannah, Ga., teen is indeed eager to add poundage—to the already eye-popping amounts she has lifted en route to staking her claim as the strongest girl in the world. "I want to hold all the records," says the outgoing Haworth, who, on Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee April 7, set a new U.S. mark of 297 pounds in the clean-and-jerk. "I'm going to try to be the best, no matter what."