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At 23-years-old, Jourdan Delacruz has accomplished more in her weightlifting career than athletes twice her age. After turning to weightlifting full time in 2015, she quit her job, other sports pursuits, and even changed her school schedule to follow her passion. She won several junior and adult medals before finally achieving her lifelong dream earlier this year: Delacruz qualified to represent the United States at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She sat down with Virus to discuss how she prepares for competitions, the joy of qualifying for the Olympic team, and what she’s learned over her years of weightlifting.
While representing the United States in the Olympics is a lifelong dream for athletes of all ages, weightlifter Jourdan Delacruz achieved the goal at just 23-years-old. But don’t be fooled by her age as her achievement had been building up over time. From fully committing herself to weightlifting to developing her inner grit, Delacruz making the Olympics is a byproduct of years of repetition, training, and support.
If Delacruz had a superpower, it would be her dedication. She went all-in on her passion at a relatively early age, deciding to pursue weightlifting full time in 2015. She quit cheerleading, her job, and even decided to homeschool so she could focus solely on training.
Her dedication reaped immediate benefits as she was asked to be a resident at the Olympic Training Center soon after she began competing. Her competition career took off with the extra support: she took silver in the 2018 Junior World Championship, then won the gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Championships.
At that point, there was no turning back.
“I was entirely engulfed by this sport,” adds Delacruz.
“Weightlifting is very demanding of an athlete not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as it is an ‘in it for the long run’ kind of sport”
In what may be a surprise for people who see weightlifting as only a physical activity, Delacruz trains her mind as much as her body before competitions. She describes her routine in the weeks leading up to a meet as “simple, yet intricate.” She quiets her social life and gets rid of outside distractions as she focuses on fine-turning everything from her diet, meditations, and recovery.
“By the time competition nears, I have focused solely on my routine for weeks and feel very equipped to perform,” says Delacruz.
“As a young female coming into this sport, the generation before me mentored and inspired me daily”
Her holistic dedication to the sport more than paid off with her place on the Olympic team. She says that the achievement is a “dream come true” and a result of sticking to a long-term plan. On top of the excitement of competing on the world’s biggest stage, Delacruz is quick to note the importance of her role as one of a few women who have represented the U.S. in weightlifting.
Delacruz herself was shaped by the previous generation of mentors. She was not only inspired to compete by the women who came before her, she also saw the discipline and approach required to become a professional athlete. Likewise, one of her career goals is to have a similar impact on the next generation of weightlifters.
“I owe so much of my work ethic, sportsmanship, leadership grit, and passion to the athletes that came before me,” adds Delacruz.
“My hope is to inspire and provide mentorship to the men and women who come after me”
Yet even with her singular determination, it takes an ecosystem to build an Olympic athlete. Delacruz dedicates her success to her support group in and out of the gym, including her coaches, teammates, parents, friends, physical therapists, and psychologists. Without each of their contributions, no matter how big or small, she says that “I would not have gotten this far.” Her gratitude highlights the many moving pieces that go into creating a champion over the years.
Delacruz describes weightlifting as an activity that challenges competitors in all aspects - physically, mentally, and emotionally - due to its repetitive, long-term nature. She says that doing the same lifts over and over again “can prey on your mental and emotional strength” while also building a grit and inner strength to continue the everyday pursuit, creating a cycle that reinforces itself.
She also finds that being dedicated for the long-term also “prepares you to face unexpected challenges” whether in weightlifting or in life. She leaned on her mentality especially over this past year. Delacruz credits the lessons she’s learned from battling for Olympic spots against fierce competitors as a key to helping her not only survive the pandemic, but also grow as both an athlete and a human.
“You build a certain tenacity over the years that will equip you to keep pushing,” says Delacruz about how weightlifting translates into her day-to-day life.
“Passion for me is enjoying the process and being truly present in everything that you do”
Of course, showing this long-term dedication is easier when you’re passionate about your activity. Delacruz defines passion as being truly present in the everyday process. She also gives useful tips to help aid the journey, including not getting too worked up about the small things, surrounding yourself with positive energy, and loving what you do.
Delacruz has the first-hand experience to back up her words. As much as the physical aspect, all of the hours and repetitions that went into her weightlifting journey honed and developed her grit and tenacity. The process to build both the body and the mind takes years of dedication, and you may not immediately see the benefits. But believe in the long-term path and you might also one day find yourself representing the U.S. at the Olympics.