Traveling internationally is something I always wanted to do a lot of. When I began weightlifting I learned fast about the opportunities to travel for competitions and was hooked. My first travel Experience was to Guayaquil, Ecuador for the Junior Pan American Championships. This was in 2017 and really opened my eyes to the other parts of the world. Making Fuzhou, China a trip to remember.
I went to compete in China for the IWF World Cup last weekend and had an amazing experience. First off, I want to say: You don’t know what a long flight is until you have been on for more than 10 hours. My flight from JFK to Fuzhou was 15 hours! Its an incredibly difficult physical challenge because of me having stiff knees and my back. I had to continuously get up and do air squats and lunges to stay loose. It also didn’t help that I picked a Chinese airline to fly as well. No one spoke English and I was the only American on my flight. Not that this was an issue, I just had a lot of weird looks when I was doing my “stretches”. Once I got to China I met with coach Mike Gattone after customs and we took an hour drive to the hotel. Feeling drained and tired I tried my best to embrace the culture immediately, but it was dark and raining and time for bed.
The next morning was terrible. I was exhausted, tight, and felt like I shouldn’t be awake (13-hour time difference). I went down to breakfast as soon as soon as the dining hall opened because I had nothing else to do. The breakfast was so bizarre to me. The eggs where cooked different, the drinks were different and their breakfast was so much “lighter” than ours is in the U.S. I think we are the only country that really eats a lot of food for breakfast. There was no toast or meat or anything like that. I ate as much as I could and immediately went back to bed. Training was right around lunchtime. The training hall was up a mountain and they called it their “Weightlifting University”. The training hall was where the best Chinese weightlifters train. It was amazing to me seeing these weightlifters train. These lifters are the exact people I find myself watching on youtube late at night when I can’t sleep. Me being there with them was a once in a lifetime experience, reassuring me that I can be great at this sport. After training, we went back to the hotel and I lay down for the rest of the day. It was hard for me to do anything productive because the internet was so bad in China, and every TV show was in Chinese and had no English translation. This resulted in me making up my own plots for these shows and causing massive amounts of boredom.
Now, it was competition time. My body weight was perfect and gave me enough room to eat a good breakfast. I weighed 67.4 after breakfast and didn’t weigh in till 6:30 pm. I went back to the room and did my long stretch/percussion massage routine and then hung around till weigh-ins. After weigh-ins, the team Doc and I took a shuttle to the venue. In the shuttle, I spent those 15 minutes visualizing and thinking about how I was going to execute my attempts on the platform. When we arrived at the venue it was pretty surreal. The stage was huge and my idol lifters surrounded me in the warm-up room. I was so excited to lift. Being with some of the greatest weightlifters of our generation was making me almost giggle inside. When the competition started I was smashing my warm ups. We took attempts all the way up to 121kg in the back and decided to open with 125kg. The first attempt I tried was a miss behind me. I tried shrugging the attempt off but couldn't make a snatch attempt after that miss. I was shocked. I really had no idea why I missed those attempts. Frustration and anger flooded my brain and I knew after that I wouldn’t have an international total for this year. Me and coach Mike Gattone sat down and discussed clean and jerk. At this time the goal was to make 3 clean and jerk attempts and PR my competition clean and jerk. We opened conservative at 150kg and it was an easy attempt. The next weight I took was 155kg and again, smashed it. On my last attempt, we decided to go to 160kg. My best in competition is 157kg, and my best in training is 161kg. All I was telling myself going into this lift was that I was strong enough to lift this. I pulled the weight off the floor and stood up with it slowly. My cleans have always been slower and I knew when it was up that I could jerk it, but I pushed my jerk forward. Ending the meet with no snatch and a 155kg clean and jerk I was beyond disappointed in myself. I feel like Dane takes these bad meets out on himself a lot as a coach but there was no excuse for my poor performance other than myself. I went back to the hotel room that night and really thought about my training and my goals in this sport. I realize I am still young and have time, but my dreams are so big it makes me hungry for immediate success. I realized that night that there is no more time for excuses, whining, complaining, and trying less than 100% in training. My mindset when I get back will be different. I will no longer think like a champion, but I will act upon those thoughts. Time to get back and train like the athlete I dream about being.
The trip was a huge learning experience for me. It was another opportunity to experience a different culture, and another chance to prove myself as a weightlifter. If you asked me 3 years ago about competing in other countries I would have told you-you are crazy. The opportunities in this sport are endless, and Just keep me hungry for more, and more is exactly what I will get.
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