Though one of the best in the world at her sport, Diana Fuhrman of Simi Valley rarely boasts of her athletic achievements.
It's not that Fuhrman is shy or modest about her talents.
But how does a young woman tell someone she lifts heavy barbells three hours a day, five days a week, without getting a disapproving look?
"Let's just say it's not the first thing I tell a guy that I've met in a bar," said Fuhrman, who attends Cal State Northridge. "It's hard to explain without people acting standoffish."
Weightlifting, not to be confused with body building, ranks in popularity among women about as high as bullfighting and boxing.
Fuhrman, however, lifts because she has a chance to fulfill a dream of being the best at something. She has been lifting seriously for six years and is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, according to a recent U.S. Weightlifting Federation poll.
"I like the speed, power and explosion involved in weightlifting," Fuhrman said. "I'm world-ranked in a sport, and not too many people can say that."
Weightlifters compete in two events: the snatch, and the clean and jerk.
In the snatch, a weightlifter must pull the bar along the body and over the head in one continuous motion.
In the clean and jerk, the bar is first lifted to the shoulders in a single movement, then lifted overhead.
While competing in the 123-pound class, Fuhrman, 24, held national records in the snatch (137 pounds) and the clean and jerk (159 pounds) for three years. She recently moved up to the 148-pound class and has improved her personal best to 165 in the snatch and 204 in the clean and jerk. Neither is a record.
"People can't believe I can lift that much without being a brute," said Fuhrman (5-4, 145 pounds). "At one time, I couldn't believe that I could lift that much weight, even though my coach insisted I could. I'm starting to get more confident about my ability and that's helped me to become more successful."
Fuhrman started weightlifting at Van Nuys High to help improve her speed and jumping ability as a hurdler. Her 10th-grade biology teacher, Bob Takano, who coaches the Van Nuys Weightlifting Club, introduced her to the sport. She became a full-time member of the club after graduating from Van Nuys in 1981.
Albert Hood, who finished eighth in his weight class during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, is also a club member.
"We are a close-knit group and we attend each other's meets," Fuhrman said. "You have to be totally addicted to weightlifting because there is no money or social acceptance. We brutalize our bodies for a silver medal--and sometimes not even that--and only another weightlifter understands what we go through."
Fuhrman will compete in the World Weightlifting Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Oct. 31 in the first world championship ever held for women.
She hopes that sometime in the near future women's weightlifting will become an Olympic sport.
"I would like the chance to win an Olympic medal before I become a grandmother," Fuhrman said.
Fuhrman might only have to wait until she's 33 before she gets that chance, according to USWF President Murray Levin.
"If everything goes according to plan, we should have women's weightlifting in the 1996 Olympics," Levin said.
Then, perhaps, Fuhrman will talk freely about her weightlifting accomplishments.