(News4usonline) – Women in the sport of weightlifting is still relatively new at the Olympics. The first time weightlifting was given a go at the Summer Games for female competitors was in 2000.
That was 21 years ago. Ready or not, women like U.S. weightlifter Jourdan Delacruz, are now entrenched in the sport and making plenty of waves with their progress.
Delacruz might be considered a newbie in weightlifting having taken up the sport in 2015. Her first introduction to the international stage came officially three years later at the world championships where she placed 13th.
And so between the first time she found herself interested in the sport until she made the cut for the U.S. Olympic weightlifting roster, Delacruz has been blazing a trail that is all of her own. It’s been a pretty impressive journey so far.
At the moment, Delacruz holds nine American records and has added the title of Pan American champion (2019, 2020) to her weightlifting resume. The 23-year-old Wylie, Texas native can now tack on Olympian at the top of that list.
“It’s an honor as always,” Delacruz said on suiting up for Team USA. “This Olympics is very special, both in its uniqueness. And I think representing the U.S. is such an honor and it’s such an honor doing it at this time.”
Getting to this point wasn’t easy, Delacruz said. That’s because of the lengthy qualifying process weightlifters have to go through presents quite a bit of a challenge, she added.
“Weightlifting before Covid-19 had an 18-month qualification period,” Delacruz said. “I would say that the challenging part about that was going to competitions every few months and competing and collecting as many Robi Points as you can. Then with the additional year because of Covid-19, we had to add on to that 18-month qualification period. So by the time we get to summer it’ll be about 32 months I believe.”
Delacruz, who lifts at 49kg (108 pounds) admits that the long grind to her first Olympics was tough.
“It was hard to always be at your best physical shape, trying to avoid any type of serious injury, just trying to stay in shape,” Delacruz said. “ And you do sacrifice a lot to train full-time, and with the additional year that’s just more sacrifices.”
When it comes to sacrifices, Delacruz got an early start into seeing what it means to push through. Her parents, Bern and Donna Delacruz, were active in the weightlifting genre, owning their own gym. That gym, Body at Work, has long closed up shop. However, the lingering memories of being in her parents’ gym left an impression on their daughter.
“My mom and my dad, they’re amazing parents,” Delacruz said. “I’m super lucky. They actually did do a lot of strength training when I was growing up. So, I grew up in the gym. They owned one. I was around barbells all the time. I’m sure their influence had a much greater impact on me than I really realize.”
That impact would take on a slow burn effect on Delacruz. Even though she ha been around the gym and weightlifting early, it wasn’t until she decided to jump into doing some crossfit training that she really got the juices moving in weightlifting. Prior to that, Delacruz, who works out of and trains at the Power & Grace Performance Club, stayed busy in competitive cheerleading.
“I did competitive cheer for four or five years, and on one of those summers I decided to do crossfit just to help me get stronger and help me prep for the competition season for cheerleading,” Delacruz said. “It was there when I found weightlifting really quickly. That’s how I was introduced to the sport.”
When it comes to whom she draws inspiration from in the sport she competes in, fellow American weightlifter Morghan King fits that bill, Delacruz said.
“She is also in my weight class so she is a tiny person,” Delacruz said. “So watching her as I grew in my career was really inspiring because she constantly pushed those limites and boundaries that society has on women, especially like small women. I mean, she would power clean over 200 pounds really casually. It would blow my mind because she’s only like a hundred pounds. She’s always been an inspiration to me in that regard.”
Competing at the Olympics gives Delacruz the platform where she can be just as inspirational to another generation of aspiring female athletes. With the sport still in its novice stage when it comes to women weightlifters, the Tokyo Olympics will hopefully generate more buzz towards the sport.
“Women have only been allowed to compete in weightlifting at the Olympics for 21 years now,” Delacruz said. “So it’s still very new. So just watching the growth of fierce women coming into the sport, specifically weightlifting and just watching the transformation…It started with just so few women to now. I feel confident in saying if you go to any weightlifting gym there’s probably going to be more women than men in there.”
Delacruz said that stems from weightlifting being ultra-competitive among women.
“Weightlifting is super-competitive on the women’s side,” Delacruz said. “I think a lot of the best weightlifters as well were gymnasts. And as you know, a lot of gymnasts are women. It’s an easy transformation into the sport. So I do think that it [weightlifting] is growing now that weightlifting has become more popular.”