An Olympic Experience
I started full time weightlifting at the end of 2012, in hopes to become the number one lifter in the 53k class, not the number one female in the country. My goals were modest but I knew if I could continue to improve that I had to talent and work ethic to become a great athlete in this sport.
Fast forward 3 ½ years later, going into Olympic Trials I was sitting fourth on the team in which three girls would be representing the United States of America. I knew going into Trials I was more prepared for this moment than any other moment in my entire life. I had worked my butt off and I knew the total I needed to put me in a great position to be on the team. You always imagine everything going perfectly right and you go 6/6 but naturally something always happens. In clean and jerk my legs started to cramp, had to open up lighter than originally planned. I ended up with a 180K total ended up putting me #1 on the team, meaning that two people had to bump me off. I had done everything in my power in that moment and that day that I could have done.
The moment they called my name up onto the stage as one of the three girls that were going to Rio, I absolutely lost it. Now, you have to understand that for me that moment was a lot more than just going to Rio in Weightlifting. It represented everything that I had ever done in my life brought to this one moment. People spend their whole lives in one sport and sacrifice an immense amount of things to get to the Olympics. I did the same thing but my way. I took my own path to the Olympics, granted it looks fast but weightlifting allowed me to bring out the athlete that was always inside playing other sports.
After being announced to the team there was a big adrenaline drop. It took me a solid 10 days to get back in the swing of things. It was such a stressful lead up to Trials that I just needed to get my head right. It was a weird feeling being at the OTC and being one of the few people only training. My coaches, Dean Kruse and Shahin Nasarinia, decided that I needed a change of scenery to get me excited about weightlifting again. Six weeks before the Olympics, I moved down to Arizona to train directly under Shahin who lived down there. Since January, Shahin had been writing the program and Dean did the day-to-day coaching in the gym with me everyday. Shahin's program is based on feeling and what you can do that day. He understands that life happens and your body reacts and recovers different all the time. That's why it was very important for me to have someone watching every lift at every session.
Those six weeks were really tough on me mentally and physically. I was completely out of my own environment. I didn’t have my boyfriend and puppies or sports med, who I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today without them. My training was super tough as well. Luckily Shahin is a very mental coach and was able to give me examples of how he had to go through tough times and it resonated with me. Being mentally tough is so key in weightlifting and I am still working on it to this day.
I remember the night before I left for the Olympics, I was by myself in my grandparents old house and just thinking about how surreal this was. This was the house growing up that I sat in front of the TV and watched all the greats before me compete on the world’s biggest stage. I still pinch myself knowing that I got to be part of it. I arrived in Rio 6 days before I competed. I travelled with the Rowing, Women’s Volleyball, Women’s Rugby Teams. I just kind of latched onto them and made friends. It was awesome to see the camaraderie between all the teams and I was excited to be a part of such an amazing experience already.
As we arrived at the Olympics Village, I was able to take my key first and head up to my room. None of my roommates would be there for at least 4 days, leaving me ample time to get aquatinted to my surroundings. We roomed with the three Judo girls, who were super cool too. Needlessly to say I felt safe knowing I was rooming with them, so if anything could happen they would kick some serious butt.
I trained everyday til competition, which was very different for me. Years past I had quite a big taper but I trusted Shahin and felt better than I had ever before, being able to still do heavy weights so close to competition. It was strange, I never felt nervous. I think I felt more excited and honored to be a part of this and that took the nerves away. Competition day was August 6th, I stayed heavier than my normal cut. Shahin wanted me to cut water weight at the last minute so my body was still well fed and hydrated all week. Three and half hours before weigh in we cut my weight, which was pretty easy once I started sweating. For some reason my body hates sweating and heat. All felt well going into the competition, I was the last one to weigh in, number 12 in the session. I was pumped because 12 is my lucky number so I knew it was going to be a good day. Not only with the number, I knew I had two world champions in the back with me and the Gandalf of USA Weightlifting, Kyle Pierce. How could I not be excited with a crew like that!?!
Hearing my name called out for my session was unreal. I kept staring around the whole venue and smiling like someone had given me a ten-pound bag of sour patch kids. I COULD NOT believe I was still there, I still don’t. Everything happened so fast, I’ll spare the emo version of this story about how I broke the Snatch American record and then cramped up again in my leg and proceeded to run off the stage with the other two records, in clean and jerk. Even if I would have made those records, I probably would have said there was more in the tank. We always want that extra lift because of the what ifs. I know I was two lifts away from bronze but you know what, so were the other girls.
The feeling I left with after competing was hunger for more. For the first time I knew in my heart that I was able to compete with the best in the world. I have gotten over the excuses I told myself to justify my total. Now people know who I am and know that I’m coming back with a ton of international experience and will be a force to be reckoned with. I’m pretty sure I have more international experience than I do national experience, which is pretty awesome.
Missing Opening Ceremonies was such a bummer. That is literally what you think of the Olympics with all the athletes coming out and the big fireworks and the lighting of the torch. I couldn’t even stay awake to see it lit but was woken up by the screams in the village of all the excited athletes of when it was. Being in a lighter weight class I have yet to see any international opening ceremony so I guess it was pretty par for the course. I knew since I missed that, I was going to fill my remaining days til closing ceremonies seeing all the events I could and experience Rio.
My family, Dean’s parents, and our two good friends came down to support me in Rio so it was great to have some down time with them after competing. We were able to go to the USA House which was down on Ipanema Beach. Little did I know that the day we went there, would be the starting of a new chapter of my life. Dean took my dad up to the rooftop and asked his permission to marry me.
The next day was an insane day trying to coordinate all the family together. I was super grumpy and hangry and all Dean wanted to do was go on this rock on Ipanema. In typical Morghan and Dean fashion everything was unorganized and he brought me out on the rock that overlooked the whole beach and he got down on one knee. I kept saying to him in between tears “you’re not serious, are you?!” Now you all can say you knew it was coming, we’ve been together for 5 years but I honestly had no idea. We never really talked about marriage, we just knew that we were planning our future together. This Olympic experience was turning out to be one for the record books(no pun intended).
The next couple days were pretty chill. Dean and I went to almost every A session in weightlifting. By far the best sessions I have seen since 2013 Worlds in Poland. We also saw rowing, beach volleyball, boxing, men’s gymnastics, fencing, track and field, wrestling, and diving. I probably am missing a few but I really tore it up. It was awesome because the Athlete Services in the USA building had a sign up sheet for tickets and if you wanted to just wing it you could come in the morning and check out and see what extras they had left over.
Ok so blah blah blah, I’m probably boring you all by now.
Let’s get to Closing Ceremonies.
I was so excited to be a part of Closing Ceremonies. I had dreamed of this moment. I was talking to my brother and he told me to find the tallest person on our team and get on his shoulders so they could see me. I knew older brothers were wise. It was pouring down rain, so we were given sexy ponchos to go with our outfits. Tailored to fit us. Just kidding. Thanks to Seth Weil, a 6’8 rower, I was able to have the best experience possible walking down the middle of the stage. Music was blaring, all the countries together and the whole world in unison for 3 hours, celebrating together. It was an amazing feeling. I felt so at peace. It was pretty cold sitting their watching the ceremonies but once Brazil passed the Olympics to Tokyo and Mario popped out it was game on. The Japanese really stole the show with their performance. At the end of the ceremonies, the Brazilian Carnival costumes came out and danced. They allowed all the athletes to run into the middle and hang out with all the performers. We were allowed to try on all the costumes and even take things home. It was a huge carnival. I wish they had shown that part because it was so cool to be a part of that and everyone just felt like we were on top of the world.
One of the most memorable moments at the Olympics was seeing Sarah on that podium. Now Sarah and I haven’t really spent much time together and so I was happy to be able to spend the Olympics to get to know her. She is one of the most positive people I have ever met. I knew the crew we took to Rio, any of us had the potential to medal. Weightlifting is awesome that way, any given day, anything can happen. You could tell when she stepped on stage she was gonna light it up. You could see it in her demeanor. Snatches went phenomenal, I knew if she could get her head around the clean and jerk she had a medal. Second attempt, I’m stomping up and down the bleachers knowing that if she made this she was gonna get bronze. She absolutely smashed it, and then went on to smash her third as well. I was nervous sweating with tears in my eyes. At that moment I was so proud to be part of this squad that brought USA Weightlifting back. I felt like a proud mama. I should say that I was definitely jealous that she was up on that podium and I wasn’t but it’s not about that. It’s about the future of our sport and the future of USA Weightlifting. We are back on the map, and we are only going to get stronger in the next quad and that’s what it’s about. Weightlifting may be an individual sport, but we were a team that day. I know Jenny felt that same way I did.
My experience of the Olympics will never ever be replicated. This was incredibly special and I am so honored to represent USAW and Team USA.