Dear 12-year-old Mona
When your dad suggests you start weightlifting to help with explosive power for Karate, you are not going to like it at all. You will do it because you know dad knows what’s best for you, but it will take a while to learn to love the sport.
You are going to experience the world, and yourself as a woman, in a whole new way through weightlifting – and, if you give it a chance, you are going to fall in love with the sport. It will give you new dreams and opportunities, will bring disappointment and struggle, and will provide moments of joy and happiness. Weightlifting will eventually become a way of life.
So right up front let me tell you this: don’t give up.
People will tell you that girls shouldn’t lift weights, and that if you take up the sport you are going to look like a man. Don’t listen to a word these people say (even when they make you cry some days because of their lack of understanding). With the right coach and smart training, girls can do anything they want to do, and you are going to meet some of the strongest most feminine women s you travel the world competing. In fact, it is these women that will help you feel even more comfortable in your own skin, and who will show you that strength has a beauty all of its own.
People often talk about grit and a no quitting mentality when it comes to success, you are going to need all of that and more over the 15 years of your career. From being the youngest weightlifter ever (you were only 14) to represent SA as a senior at an international meet, you will go on to miss out on an Olympic Games and have two bad Commonwealth Games. During these times you are going to have to hold onto the fact that you love what you do, but are not defined by how heavy a weight you can lift. Theses times will show you that you are so much more than an athlete and have so much more to give.
You are going to learn that although you love weightlifting, your passion also lies in helping others reach their potential – both physically and mentally. Your love of reading and learning will help you in pursuit of this goal. Don’t let anyone tell you that studying is not for elite athletes – in fact its studying that will often keep you focused and feeling safe in the knowledge that you have a life outside of sport and a life you are building for long after you’ve stop competing. You are going to end up with you own gym (yes, how cool is that!) and find such pleasure in helping other athletes reach their own dreams.
In the end, when you hold that 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medal in your hand, all the tears and hard work will be worth it! But don’t forget, you are more than a medal and life has so much more for you than just this one moment.
Trust the process.
You are tougher than you think you are.
Follow your own path.
You’re going places my girl – enjoy every bit of the ride!