The strongest girl in the world is an Orthodox Jewish 10-year-old from Fair Lawn, N.J.
Naomi Kutin, a soon-to-be sixth-grader at the Yeshivat Noam day school in Paramus, can lift more than twice her own 99 pounds. In January she set a world record for women in her weight class (then 97 pounds), beating competitors decades older than her to squat 214.9 pounds at a meet in Corpus Christi, Texas. On the first Sunday in July, she established two regional records for her age group, with a 199.5-pound squat and a 209.4-pound deadlift.
But ask Naomi about her powerlifting prowess — unusual for a 10-year-old and virtually unheard of for an Orthodox girl — and she’ll just say this: “It’s kind of weird being stronger than an adult.”
Naomi, who is 4 feet 9 inches tall with a sturdy figure and a sandy blond pageboy haircut, practices lifting in the basement of her family’s two-story home, where a handwritten “No Fear” sign hangs next to a white porcelain mezuza. A recent practice session there provided a tableau of a Sunday afternoon in the life of an observant Jewish family surely like no other:
Naomi’s father, Ed Kutin, wearing a yarmulke and a gray shirt with a picture of an eagle grasping a barbell, prepared Naomi for a squat, rubbing a cylinder of white chalk across her back. She dipped her hands into a cardboard box of loose chalk powder.
“The chalk is getting into my nose!” she squealed. “Well, you’re not lifting with your nose,” said her mother, Neshama Kutin, crouched in a long jeans skirt in the corner of the room to spot the lift.
Naomi then steadied herself in a wide leg stance in front of the barbell, propped at chest-height on a metal stand. Her father loaded several discs onto the 45-pound bar — a total of 205 pounds. Naomi gripped the bar, glancing back and forth between her hands and making “shush” noises to focus. She rolled her head under the bar, placing it on top of her upper back. Face red, eyes bulging to the ceiling, she lifted the bar from its stand and then lowered herself onto her haunches.
“Take it low. Come on, Supergirl,” her mother said. “You can do this. No fear.”
Naomi first started lifting two years ago. Her father introduced her to it after watching her outshine the boys in her karate class. Ed Kutin bears the formidable mustache of a circus strongman. He became acquainted with the sport in the campus gym of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he went to college. He now holds several national records in the deadlift, a maneuver that entails hoisting a weighted bar off the ground with both hands. Powerlifting — a derivative form of Olympic weightlifting — has three movements: the deadlift, the squat and the bench press.