Next month, I’ll be among 4 Athletes representing Weightlifting Ireland at the IWF World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand. It will be…..it is the honor of my life. And it’s been quite a journey getting there.
I stumbled into weightlifting almost a decade ago, as an aspiring strength coach who’s sole mission was to teach better. Strength coaches don’t need to be elite athletes, in fact they shouldn’t. But I do believe they should be able to adequately demonstrate any of the tools in their box at the drop of a hat. Being competent in the Olympic lifts so that I could better instruct them was just another check towards professional development. I had no idea that the sport and culture of weightlifting would consume my personal life and entirely redirect my early adult journey.
Weightlifting has given me discipline and confidence; an opportunity to teach others and enrich their lives; a family I didn’t know existed that spans multiple continents; and most of all the absolute love of my life. It has taken the last gasps of my youth; a “normal” career trajectory; any and all of what little money I have ever had; any shred of patience that I ever had for incompetence and halfheartedness; and my free faculties of my left shoulder. It has been a exquisite bargain.
I opened this year’s competition schedule by lifting at Nationals in Dublin with the goal of qualifying for the European Championships in Georgia. Instead, I posted my worst competitive performance of my career. I am not an unrealistic individual: I’m not an Olympic champion in the making and have never expected outlandish things of myself. But this was first time since childhood that I set my mind to something that was entirely within my hands to accomplish and failed to meet my goal. There are so many things in life you can’t control. Maybe that’s why I like weightlifting so much: an individual sport where regardless of how you feel, how you traveled, how good/bad your coach is, or how you prepared for months, you will be remembered for six moments alone. It’s all on you.
The hardest part about not going to Europeans wasn’t watching my friends go and lift, but dealing with the fact that I didn’t achieve what I said I would. So I made a lot of changes, and took help where I needed it.
In a bid for the World Championships, we knew I would probably have to cut a weight category to meet the qualifying total. I simply wasn’t able to advance as quickly as needed, and, let’s face it, I’m too short to be this fat. Tayler helped me make sure I ate the things I needed to and made sacrifices of her own to keep bad foods out of the house. Travis had the talks with me, not about programming, but about mindset that I needed. I changed where and when I trained, even if that meant not lifting in my own damn gym more often than not. I did the mundane cardio that was supposed to “kill my strength”. And honestly, it did a little.
When I weighed in on meet day, I had lost 13kg or just short of 30lbs. I lifted and totaled the most I have since my shoulder surgery, competing at my lightest bodyweight yet. I met the qualifying standard for the World Championships and was selected to participate. I did what I said I would do.
In a way, this is just a long extension of my coaching education. Someday, there will come a person in my life actually talented enough to excel where I never could. But I will have lived these moments, and extracted every ounce of potential from myself so that I can know what they will face firsthand.
What comes now is a self-funded journey around the world to participate in my sport alongside the very best. Weightlifting in Ireland is growing, but is still very small. Funding is incredibly limited for operations, with the apparent bulk spend in development programs internally rather than supporting international competitors. This is probably the prudent and correct course of action, as the only way the sport will continue to grow is if there is an infrastructure in place to support it in the long term.
The cost of participation in any international event is a lot more than one would think. In a country like Thailand, where the event hotel typically rates for around 45-75USD/night, the IWF charges 130-150USD/night, for which there is a 4 night required minimum. This is in part to ensure that the organizing committee has funds to support the event and meals are included for athletes, but also to subsidize the cost of executives who do not pay for anything during this time. There is also a 250USD fee for accreditation and anti-doping. And none of this includes the physical travel to Pattaya, which can be somewhat costly when on a fixed schedule.
Without considering incidentals and meals during travel time, the current cost of flying and participation in the World Championships totals right around 2,000USD.
For this reason, I am asking for the support of anyone interested in a number of pathways. The first and best way anyone can support myself, Team USA Athlete Tayler Harris, or any of the lifters from Heavy Metal Barbell, is to do business with us. In addition to running our training facility in Charlotte, we offer several services, from programming, to comprehensive remote coaching, and nutritional consultation. I promise you, literally every dime of profit from these offerings goes into promoting weightlifting through our program and supporting travel to coach athletes at National and International competitions.
We have events like the upcoming, Heavy Metal Fall Open, that are some of the best in the Southeast. If you want compete in weightlifting, we believe we offer the most athlete-centric experience of any event around, and can support us once again by participating in these events.
In the past we have had success with fundraising through t-shirt production, and are doing so once again, thanks to our good friend Derek Selles at Metal Empire Productions. Derek made something he felt encapsulated me as competitor and this event, and we’re happy to offer his work printed on premium Next Level Apparel tri-blends in three different color options.
We offering shirts in 3 Tiers aimed at individuals and small businesses alike:
Bronze Level: $25 for shirt and local pickup. $30 if shipping inside the US.
Silver Level: $50 for a Small Logo Print on the back of shirt and 1 Shirt of any size
Gold Level: $100 for Large Logo Print on the back of shirt and 2 Shirts of any size
For shirt orders, we are using PayPal and Venmo to process orders. If you’d like to order a shirt, please click the PayPal Button below or send to @SeanMRigsby on Venmo. Please include your Shirt Size, and your shipping address if necessary. For business sponsors, we will follow up to secure your logo for printing.
Thank you to every single of one of you who got this far reading for this long. And thank you to every one who has ever been a member of our program, helped us get somewhere, coached an athlete at a meet, or just sent words of encouragement. The smallest actions and words have had a resounding impact, keeping the path lit when it grows darker. If anyone has questions about the Club, competing, or this process of International competition, you can email me personally, firstname.lastname@example.org