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Team USA weightlifter Harrison Maurus was once a gymnast

The Olympian said he lost a state competition because of a toe point during his days as a gymnast.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Olympian Harrison Maurus can lift more than 400 pounds over his head -- double his body weight. He's spent the last decade weightlifting and training his body, but underneath the 177 pounds of muscle, there's a trained gymnast. 

The 20-year-old from Auburn, Washington, trains at Power & Grace Performance in Suwannee, Georgia, which two other Olympians train at as well. He is a strong contender for a weightlifting medal.

Maurus said many people are surprised to see that weightlifters often come from a gymnastic or cheerleading background. 

He is no different.

He focused on being a gymnast from ages 7 to 11, but he lacked a critical skill: flexibility.

"I was always a strong gymnast but not a pretty gymnast, wasn't flexible, couldn't point my toes," he said. "So I transitioned to weightlifting where you don't have to be flexible." 

Maurus once lost a state competition by a tenth of a point because he couldn't point his toes. He said flexibility is his kryptonite. 

He said a big misconception about weightlifting is that it's all about strength. 

"It's about how you move the weight rather than how much weight you move," Maurus said.

At first, the extra year of training was rough for Maurus because he was used to a close-knit team. For a while, the team was training out of their garages. 

"Good thing about weightlifting is we can spread out; we do not share bars," Maurus said. 

He said he hopes for a strong competition at the games and that others used the extra year for improvements. His parents, who said they are super proud, will be watching Maurus compete from Hawaii to cheer him on. 

He recovered from a back injury caused by back-squatting and spent almost eight weeks out of the gym. Now fully recovered, Maurus is representing Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics men's 81-kilogram class competition on Saturday, July 31.