MOSCOW — The strongest girl in the world has set off on another trip to a hard-line dictatorship.
Teenage Russian athlete Maryana Naumova, who can bench-press 330 pounds, is in Syria to meet with local children, athletes and female guards at the invitation of first lady Asma Assad, she told NBC News Tuesday.
The 16-year-old champion - dubbed "the princess of the barbell" - has previously visited separatists in eastern Ukraine, where she staged street competitions for fighters and local children. In 2014, she traveled to North Korea.
Naumova set the world record in bench-pressing for teenagers at a tournament in Ohio in March, where she was congratulated by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The native of Khimki, Russia, took to pumping iron at the age of 10 and has been on a roll ever since, winning more than 24 under-18 world records in weightlifting.
As a member of the youth arm of Russia's Communist Party, the Komsomol, she tours schools and orphanages across Russia to promote weightlifting.
A civil war has been raging in Syria since 2011, when forces loyal to President Bashar Assad tried to crush a largely peaceful pro-democracy movement. Since then at least 250,000 have been killed, according to U.N. estimates, and the struggle helped spawn the extremist ISIS militant group that has conquered swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq.