“It’s all about the journey, not the destination.”
I remember sitting in my ninth grade English class and listening to my teacher repeat this phrase often. I rolled my eyes and went along with my day like most 15-year-olds would.
Although I started Olympic weightlifting at 12 years old, during my freshman year of high school I intensified my training and put everything into my dream to one day wear a Team USA singlet on an international platform.
Unfortunately, I was not a naturally-gifted athlete but I worked hard. When I was a senior in high school, I won two national championships and earned nine national-level medals.
However, I left behind missed opportunities to compete with Team USA. I was an alternate for the 2017 Pan-American Youth Championship team and didn’t qualify for the Youth IWF World Championships Team either.
I struggled to come to terms with the fact I never accomplished the one goal I worked for during the last four years, representing Team USA internationally. I lost the passion I once had for the sport and took a step back from competing for a few months.
I found myself back with a barbell in hand once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. I realized if I put in the time and energy I could be a good university level athlete. However, I knew I would never be as good as I was when I was a youth athlete because going from youth to junior level weightlifting is tougher because the pool of athletes in the competition increases.
I just wanted to continue lifting and see how far I could physically and mentally push myself, so I decided to start training full-time again to see what I could accomplish during the remainder of my collegiate years.
I stopped caring about the weight on the bar, the girls I was competing against and the idea of being on Team USA. I started focusing on being confident and consistent with every lift — training with consistent weights on the barbells, technique and positive self-encouragement. Training and lifting became a competition with myself, rather than with other weightlifters.
During University Nationals 2022, I represented Temple as a university student but I was not affiliated with Temple’s own lifting team. It was the first competition in my eight years of competing where I felt confident during every lift.
I felt completely in control of my body, my mind and the barbell. The work I put into the six minutes spent on the platform paid off in every way. I became a 2022 All-American athlete and finally made my first international team.
I was so overwhelmed with excitement that I didn’t believe my coach when he told me I made my first international team. Even after the competition, the adrenaline was still rushing through my body throughout the day and I wasn’t able to sleep that night.
For the first time in my career I felt like the years of training finally paid off. I was not expecting to make Team USA, so I was shocked to find out I was ranked third overall on the team. It was such a rewarding feeling, although I had been working towards this goal since I was 12, I wasn’t expecting it to become a reality.
I traveled to Merida, Mexico, in October to compete in the FISU American Games. On the first day of the competition, although the snatch has always been my favorite lift, I underperformed on the platform during my three attempts. I was nervous because I knew I had to perform well in clean and jerks, which has always been the lift I have struggled with most.
I walked up to the platform and made my first attempt at 100kg/220lbs. I felt everything click and was able to make a successful lift. When I went on to take 105kg/231lbs and completed it, the energy in the room completely changed from nervous to excited and I heard my teammates and coaches shout my name in celebration.
I followed up with a successful personal record attempt at 108kg/239lbs. I rarely get emotional when weightlifting, but I ran off the platform feeling overwhelmed from finally hitting my goal.
I finally wore the Team USA singlet and stood on an international podium and excitedly received my first international medal, and I knew ninth-grade me would have been very proud of what I did that day.
My time in this sport hasn’t been easy, but I can say the journey has made it well worth it. I am grateful for the incredible opportunities I’ve had and what I learned during my years of lifting.