First American to make MSIC at IUKL World Championships

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Article by Sayaka Torra
Photos by Steve Burroughs


When you think of a world class kettlebell athlete, you may not immediately picture a minivan-driving, mother-of-two, successful restaurant owner. But Master of Sport International Class (MSIC) Melissa Swanson is all these things and more, which makes her accolades in kettlebell sport phenomenally impressive.

For those unfamiliar with Melissa, she most recently won the bronze medal at the 2015 IUKL World Championships in Dublin, Ireland in the women’s professional 68kg division. Her score of 141 snatches was top 7 out of 50 professional lifters from around the world snatching 24kg. Since starting kettlebell sport in 2010, Melissa has risen to become without a doubt, the best female kettlebell lifter in North America. While she holds a Master of Sport (MS) rank in 24kg long cycle, Melissa’s true passion lies in the kettlebell snatch. She currently is the only American female lifter to hold a MSIC ranking in both snatch and biathlon, the only American lifter to hit MSIC numbers at an IUKL World Championships, and the only lifter from America to beat Russia and Kazakhstan in the same competition at the professional level at an IUKL World Cup.

In a country where kettlebell sport is not subsidized by the government nor a profession where you can earn a paycheck, Melissa has had to juggle her duties as a mom, wife, business owner and elite kettlebell lifter simultaneously.

Her success can be certainly be attributed to good old fashioned hard work. Along with completing specific kettlebell workouts prescribed by her coach Steven Khuong, Melissa does supplemental weightlifting and cardio. She eats healthy and gets regular bodywork.

But what seems to really set Melissa apart is her approach and attitude towards her training, which extend far beyond the work she does in the gym. Some people may call it an obsession, while others may call it intense passion. Regardless of the label, there is no question that this extra work is what differentiates her from many others.

Like what, you say? Melissa videotapes every set she does and spends hours scrutinizing her technique. In the little spare time she has, she studies videos of lifters from other countries, and analyzes their form. She is brutally honest with herself and her performance. She asks questions and visualizes. She is a true student of the game.

Perhaps Melissa’s greatest strength is her desire to want to be great and her willingness to go to all lengths to achieve this greatness. She never puts limits on herself or what she believes she’s capable of achieving. She’s never satisfied. She’s hungry, but humble.


What Melissa has accomplished in such a short amount of time is nothing short of amazing. She’s paved the way for female lifters in the U.S. and has set the bar ridiculously high. For up and coming competitive lifters like myself, she is a true inspiration and role model. It is an honor to call her my good friend, mentor and teammate.

To illustrate Melissa’s accolade, here is a spreadsheet displaying her result against all 50 professional females lifters from the 2105 IUKL World Championships in Dublin.

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1 Comment

  1. Geoff

    December 11, 2015 at 5:44 am

    Thank you for this great report. Says it all! Coach Geoff, Hell’s Belles KettleBell Club, CrossFit Sweetwater