Member Spotlight: Ariel Sandoval’s American Open Campaign


Ariel Sandoval and Jeremy Fabregas of Venice Barbell Club BOTH qualified for the American Open weightlifting competition which will be held this weekend in Reno, NV.

Both Ariel and Jeremy are the first non-James McCoy (Venice Barbell Club founder) to qualify for this national competition. This is a very big deal and both athletes deserve a ton of recognition for the hard work they have put in to achieve their weightlifting dreams.

You can watch Ariel and Jeremy lift on the USAW live stream here on Saturday. Ariel is lifting in the “J” session at about 11am.

I had the privilege to interview Ariel about his journey to the American Open. Check it out below!


Matt: How long have you been a member at PCF?

Ariel: I believe it was summer of 2011. A coworker talked to me about Crossfit.  It attracted me because it kicked my ass and I thought I would work out for an hour and have time to do other things.

Matt: When did you fall in love with weightlifting? What was it about the sport?

Ariel: I’ve always been a fan of lifting heavy weight.  I was a typical gym rat during high school and got into more right after.  I was an angry kid.  I believe I mastered using all that anger into lifting heavy. I fell in love with Crossfit but always got more satisfaction when I PR’d a lift. For example, I had a bigger high when I hit 135# snatch vs. getting a sub 5 min Fran. I decided to focus on lifting this past year after a conversation with one of my best friends – Michael Buckner.  He was the one who planted the seed of focusing on it in order to see where it can take me.


Matt: How much have your lifts improved since starting VBC programming?

Ariel: They improved tremendously.   I already had strength but lacked technique, I still do. I still need a lot of work.  This is a lifetime sport just like CrossFit.  I loved that Josh introduced some body building movements because it brought me back to the gym rat days. I told Diso that the difference was that there was a purpose.  These movements were to make us stronger for the lifts.  The pulls got easier. My Lats grew.

Matt: You are a busy man- family, school, work…how have you fit in the training necessary to reach the level you are currently at?

Ariel: This is my biggest struggle.  Something always had to suffer – school, family, friends, house projects, rest, and  other personal interests.  It’s impossible to do it all.  When I was in school, I would have to bust “all nighters”. I stayed up late to do homework because I went out with friends/family or I had to train.  Then the following day have to go to work.  I would try to nap during lunch if I didn’t have homework.  I may take some time off after the AO just to invest some of my time with those who I neglected during my studying and training time.

Matt: What sacrifices have you had to make?

Ariel: Sleep, get together with friends and family. Birthday celebrations, I’m talking about my mom’s birthday. There were times where I had to stay so focused and on schedule with school. I couldn’t go to my mom, sisters, brother in-law birthday.  I missed out on a lot of loving memories, but everyone understood and I was glad that I had a great support system.

Matt: What keeps you motivated?

Ariel: My family, friends, and other Gym Members.   When people come up to me for help or mention that I motivate them, it’s what keeps me going.  I feel like I can’t disappoint.  We are also surrounded by so many bad asses in the gym.  So many mothers who make it work, it’s a great community. My family motivates me too. I want my son to believe his father is a bad ass.  I want him to know he can accomplish anything.  I also ask myself, “How bad do you want it?” and go for it.

Matt: When you hit the Clean & Jerk that qualified you for the AO, what was going through your head?

Ariel: This was an emotional moment.  All I thought was “I did it! I fuckin did it!”.  Then I had this high where I knew there was more in me and I hit 133kg easily which put me 2 kg over the qualifying total.  I broke down in the parking lot with my wife and told her that all that time that I spent in the gym was worth it.  I appreciate her support the most.  All the time she puts up with me being away was worth it and I thanked her for being my biggest supporter.

Matt: How has your training/diet/lifestyle changed in preparation for the AO?

Ariel: Yes, it changed a lot.  I had to change my diet.  I was on about an 80% paleo diet but it wasn’t enough energy. So I had to bring in more carbs and protein.  I included more rice, beans and potatoes into my diet.    I also had to get body work and maintain – chiropractor adjustments, massages, Jacuzzi time almost after each session.  I also started to do romwod to help out my mobility.  I was feeling stiff until I started to add some of this maintenance.  It added more things to my routine and meant I had less time for others.  Like I mentioned before, it is impossible to do it all but you have to be focused until you accomplish what you are working for.  Hard work pays off.

Again, if you want to watch and support Ariel, you can watch him on the livestream at about 11am during the “J” session!

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