Below is an essay written by Milo Janata. Milo is a youth/junior athlete who trains with the Warwick Weightlifting Club located in Warwick, NY. The essay is on Milo's experience lifting at the 2023 New York State Championships. Thank you for sharing, Milo!
Freshman English 101
November 3, 2023
It’s Saturday, September 29, 2023. I stand in the center of a ballroom at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Binghamton, NY. It is an odd-looking place; a weird red and black patterned carpet covers the entire floor, and the ceiling is so white that it is distracting. I scan the room and find a glowing red exit sign across the room, with the “T” slightly dimmer than the rest. However, the reason I’m standing there is not to admire the ballroom. In twelve hours, I will be standing in the same place, in front of a barbell, at the New York State Weightlifting Championships. The next 24 hours will become an experience that teaches me how to get out of my comfort zone and how to enjoy becoming stronger.
I wake up the next morning in the hotel room my Dad and I are staying in. It is nothing special, just a normal-looking hotel room with two beds, a TV, some nightstands, and blackout blinds that can make the room completely dark in the middle of the day. It is around eight and I need to weigh in at nine. I get dressed and put on my singlet underneath a T-shirt and sweatpants. It's only my second time wearing it, and I feel exposed. It resembles an old-timey bathing suit that fits snugly in all the wrong places. Despite the discomfort, it also makes me feel ready. I leave my hotel room and walk down to the hallway outside the weigh-in room where I wait. As more people arrive, I start to get nervous. The weigh-in process determines whether my lifts officially count. Not making weight would mean I wouldn't be able to earn a medal. An official walks out of the room and calls my name. I walk in, and it looks very similar to the competition room but much smaller. The room is empty except for two officials, a table, and a scale. I can only wear my singlet to weigh in, so I take off my clothes, including my socks, which bothers me because it just feels wrong. I step on the scale and it reads 97.6 kilograms, barely putting me in my weight class. I sigh with relief and quickly put my sweatpants, shirt, and socks back on. As my Dad and I walk to the breakfast buffet, I pass my coach and I tell him the news. I laugh as he says, “Well, you got the hard part over with.”
At 11:15 am, the second men's session is introduced. I feel ready as I warm up my snatch. The bar is moving fast and the ankle I sprained two weeks ago feels loose. I hear the scratchy and muffled voice of the announcer say “The lifter is Sam Jackson. Milo Janata is on deck.” My coach calls me over and I sit down. As soon as I do, my stomach drops. My right leg starts to bounce, my hands start to sweat and before I know it, my name is called. Walking up to the bowl of chalk, my mind is somewhere else. It is turning inside and out thinking about what I have to do: walk up to the bar, place feet shoulder-width apart, squat and grab the bar, brace, lift, stay tight, stand up. I stand in the same place as the day before, but now next to the people I am competing against, and in front of an audience. I lift the bar and try to get under it, but I miss the lift. After two minutes, I go back for my second attempt, but my mind is spinning even more. I miss the lift again. I feel horrible as I’m walking back, thinking, "Why on Earth am I not doing it?" My coach tells me to walk to the end of the hallway and breathe. I only have one lift left and need to stick it to be able to earn a medal. As I walk, my mind shifts. I think to myself, “Screw being perfect, I can lift this weight any time of the day.” My second two minutes are up, I walk up to the chalk bowl and this time, I feel different. I’m calm and confident at the same time. I tell myself, "I can do this," while my team cheers me on. I yell, “Let's Go!” and clap my hands together as chalk flies through the air. As I pick up the bar, it feels like it does not have any weight on it. Instinct takes over, and the next thing I know I am standing up with the bar above my head. I focus on keeping all my muscles tight. I hear the harsh sound of the buzzer telling me to drop the weight and I become overwhelmed with joy.
The rest of the lifters complete their snatches, we have a ten-minute break and move on to the clean and jerk. My coach tells me to open at a weight I know I can hit. Ninety kilos fly and move with ease. I go back into the warm-up room and lift two more times. Both of those lifts also move with ease, so I feel great. The next lift is on the platform. The weight on the bar is one kilo more than I have ever done, but at that moment I didn't even realize it. All I know is that I am going to lift it, and that is exactly what happens. My team, coach, Dad, and family watching the livestream cheer as loud as I've ever heard them. I feel ecstatic and on top of the world, but I am not done yet. I need to add four more kilos onto the bar to win the gold. That may not seem like a lot, but in weightlifting, it can make all the difference. Walking out, I am ready and tell myself that it is lightweight. Unfortunately, I miss the jerk, but oddly enough, I am not upset. I feel proud of myself and what I have accomplished. In the end, I stand in the middle of that oddly decorated ballroom with two medals: a silver medal from the junior class, and a gold medal, which I had not expected, from the youth class.
The New York Weightlifting Championship forever changed my approach to weightlifting. It created an opportunity for me to not only become stronger physically, it also pushed me to grow mentally. Now I know that I can push through and succeed even when I have to take my socks off. The moment I walked down that hallway and focused on my breathing, I realized that the problem wasn’t my ability, it was not believing in myself. I needed to accept that I was out of my comfort zone and believe that I had the mental and physical strength to finish the competition."