Conquering the Platform: 2019 USA Weightlifting Nationals

Winning a Senior National title is something I dreamed about since I started this sport. To see the caliber of athletes conquering the platform at this competition made me realize the level of hard work that went into it. In 2016 I won my first National title, and in 2018 came in second. After that, I was frustrated and upset with myself for months. Nationals in 2018 came down to my last clean and jerk attempt with 161kg on the bar. I knew if I hit the lift, I’d win. The clean was successful, but the jerk was not and I let my National title slip out of my hands. That feeling stuck with me for an entire year. Fast forward to the start of 2019 National Championships, My family and I drove to the airport to fly down to Memphis, and my whole trip was off.

Jake on the Podium at Nationals.

Conquering the Platform
Jake on the podium

Mental Preparation for a Major Competition

Once I got to Memphis my mental preparation began. The flight was filled with mental meditation and visualization of my lifts on the platform. I knew that I was physically prepared for a record-setting performance, so the only thing left to focus on was the mental side of it. The night before competition day was exhausting. I couldn't sleep, and my mind was wandering. I had to focus on my breathing before bed because my heart was pounding so hard I could hear it. Finally, after 3 hours of restlessness and overthinking, I calmed myself down enough and slept through the night.

Now it’s the morning, my alarm goes off and competition day is finally here. I drove over to the venue and checked my weight- 67.4kg. This was slightly heavier than I wanted it to be but knew I was still going to be able to eat that morning and I was stoked about it. Afterward, I went to the training hall to meet Dane and the rest of the gang for a quick training session. We went through bar progressions, and I focused on hitting every position perfectly. After this session, I knew I was ready to go.

Fueling for Success

When I went back to my Airbnb I had 8 ounces of water with protein and a banana. I tried setting up my computer to get some work done, but the anxiety of competition was building up too much to focus on anything else. I put my laptop down and did some meditation. I found that meditating is the best way to deal with my anxiety. Before I knew it, I woke up and it was time to check my weight again. I had become so relaxed that I actually fell asleep. That was the moment I knew I was mentally ready for any weight that went on the bar. I was ready to conquer the platform.

I got to the venue for the 2nd time to check my weight and I was 67.15kg, perfect. I had about 2 more hours till weigh-ins, so I went back to laying on the sofa at the Airbnb. I spent this time going over the lifts and the movements I was aiming to hit. I must have visualized myself snatch 100 times before it was time to officially weigh-in.

I was the first one at weigh-ins. I knew as soon as I weighed in that I needed to drink 16oz of Earth Fed Muscle Revival to replenish my body. With food ready and my revival mixed, they called my name and it was time to weigh in. I hit 66.95kg, 0.05 under my weight class. This was exactly what I wanted to be at.

You can’t win on bodyweight in weightlifting anymore, so being lighter than you have to be is a waste of bodyweight. Once I was on my way to the venue, the revival was gone and half my pork and rice was eaten. I knew I needed to eat fast, so I had some time to let the food digest. After not eating huge meals your body will feel bloated and slow if you eat too much, or too slow. Once my food was done, I sat in the back of the venue with my family and waited for competition time to come. As the clock hit 6:40 PM, Me, Dane, Dj, and Tyler made our way into the warm-up room.

The Final Minutes Leading up to Competition

The warm-up room was filled with people and the sound was overwhelming. Bars were dropping, people were yelling, and the faded sound of the crowd as attempts were taken had my mind racing. I went to the bathroom to change into my singlet and quiet my head. I ran through my lifts about 3 times while I was changing. I got back to the warm-up room and put my shoes, tape, and wrist wraps on. It was go time.

 

When taking my first warm-up attempts I remember thinking to myself “knees back, knees forward.” This was the cue Dane and I worked on for 6 months leading up to this competition. The first weight was 50 kg, a super light and easy lift, but probably the most important. This warm-up set will define your lifting for the day. As the bar got to 100 kg, I shut my brain off and focused. I was no longer concerned about technique, only execution. 100 kg, 110 kg, 115 kg, 118 kg, and 121 kg, all these attempts felt good and easy. My head was calm and my body was prepared. It was time to take my opening snatch. Time to start conquering the platform.

Approaching the Bar

As I approach the bar for my opening attempt at 126 kg, my mind was blank. I wasn't thinking about anything. My first lift begins and I… miss. I couldn't believe it. I over pulled the bar and missed it behind me on the finish. As I walked off the stage Dane reassured me of some technical corrections, and I was feeling fine. I didn't let my mind get away from me and I knew I was going to hit my next attempt. My second lift begins and I… miss. I couldn’t believe it, I did the same thing twice. Now, this is about the time when I really begin to worry, but I didn't. I was calm and confident in my ability to hit this final attempt. With the same thought process as my first two attempts, I went out and executed the third attempt perfectly. Good lift. I'm on the board and officially won the snatch. I was fortunate that no one else could beat that weight, especially after the snatch performance I just had.

Refueling After Securing the Snatch

During the ten minute break between the snatch and the clean and jerk, I ate some food and calmed my adrenaline down. I knew I needed more energy for these next string of lifts, so had some Earth Fed Muscle Stammpede Pre-workout. As clean and jerks started, I sat and waited for Dane to tell me it was time. Attempt after attempt went by and I was still sitting there. This is something I need to get used to. Being one of the last lifters is a good thing, but can be tough mentally and cause anxiety. Dane told me to take my bar warm-ups, and then it was game time.

I had the same thought process in the clean and jerk that I did in snatches. Knees back, knees forward, front foot and knee down in the split. The technique was the main focus all the way up to 130 kg. Once I got past this, I brought the intensity. Now I was going to walk you through the rest of my warm-ups, but honestly, I don't remember them. I'm not sure if I was overwhelmed or really focused, and I can't remember what the weight was on the bar. This was something I had never experienced before. I always remember my attempts and how I felt, but this time was different.

Securing the Title

Knowing that I was well off the world team total, I focused on solidifying the win. My opener had 152 kg on the bar. I went out and it was one of the easiest attempts I ever had on the competition platform. A rush of joy ran over me as I knew I had just won, but it was short-lived. I had two more attempts to try and solidify my greatness and I went back to being hyper-focused in an effort to total enough to make the world team. We went for 160 kg on my second attempt to get me closer to that final goal of totaling enough to make the team. The clean at 160 kg was easy, but I lost focus for a second and missed the jerk. Pissed off and disappointed, I knew that I had one more attempt left, one more attempt to be great.

Final Attempt at Greatness

The weight we needed to take was 167 kg. I have never had this weight on the bar in my life. I can remember Dane walking up to me and asking me if there was a doubt in my mind that I would miss this, I told him no. For the first time in my life, I wasn't afraid. I was ready for this weight no matter what. I got consumed with warmth over my face and it distracted me from my thoughts. With one attempt left, one more chance to solidify my greatness, I stepped on that platform and everything went black.

I only remember sitting on the platform when my hearing came back to me. I could hear the crowds sigh as I realize what happened. I had missed that attempt. The memory started coming back to me and I realized that I cleaned it, but missed the jerk. I remember being applauded as I walked off stage, but I knew I didn't do enough to make the world team. As Dane and DJ hugged me, and the people in the warm-up room congratulated me on my victory, it was hard to feel good. I had worked so hard and for so long for the chance to make the World Team, and I blew it.

Watch Jake's 152kg clean and jerk to win the title!

Realizations and Congratulations

Once the award ceremony started and I got my medals, a feeling of pride swept over me. For a second I forgot about my missed attempts and realized I was a National Champion. After the medals, I went to go see my parents and they congratulated me. It was super special to me for my mom to be there. She hasn’t been to a lot of my competitions, so for her to see me conquer the platform at the biggest competition in the US was very exciting.

After all this, I know it sounds like I'm not grateful to win a National Title, but that is not the case. I worked my whole life for this moment. I knew I could be the best, and I finally proved it. On the best day, I could have hit the World Team total, but it just wasn't that day.

I am back home now and training again. These experiences fuel my hunger for more and is a driving factor of why I like failing. It brings perspective to my life and helps me realize where I could be, where I am now and where I'll be in the future.

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