Jourdan DelacruzWeightliftingNews

Tokyo Outcome Is Fuel For Paris For Weightlifter Jourdan Delacruz

by Peggy Shinn

Jourdan Delacruz prepares to compete during the women's 49 kg. preliminaries at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 24, 2021 in Tokyo. (Photo by Getty Images)

Jourdan Delacruz knows what it’s like to see dreams dissolve in an instant on the Olympic stage. The 25-year-old weightlifter was in medal contention at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. But after she failed to successfully complete a lift in the clean and jerk, she found herself stepping onto a plane alone back to the U.S. rather than onto the podium. 

It was heartbreaking.

Now one of five U.S. weightlifters who have qualified for the Olympic Games Paris 2024, Delacruz, 25, “would love to experience the full Olympic movement.”

Weightlifting is scheduled for the final five days of the Paris Games, with Delacruz’s class — women’s 49 kg. — slated for Wednesday, Aug. 7, giving her time to attend the Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies. She is also looking forward to meeting athletes from other sports to talk about “differences within each sport and the experience of getting to the Olympics.”

And, if all goes well this time, Delacruz will hopefully have an Olympic medal draped around her neck.

Growing up in Wylie, Texas, Delacruz participated in several sports, including volleyball and basketball as a kid. But at 4-foot-11, she was most successful in competitive cheerleading. After her sophomore year in high school, she wanted to improve her tumbling. Her parents were both professional bodybuilders, so Delacruz headed to CrossFit with her mom. 

Her CrossFit career only lasted two weeks. The owner of the gym was also a weightlifting coach and saw talent in Delacruz. 

Although it was a culture shock to go from the glamour and glitter of cheerleading to the pure strength aesthetic of weightlifting, Delacruz took to the new sport. While her first impression of weightlifting was one of raw strength, she soon became hooked on the technicalities and physics of it — “like solving a puzzle,” she said.

By focusing on the trajectory of the bar, weightlifters can improve efficiency. And improved efficiency means more weight lifted.

“I think it’s one of the most athletic movements in sports,” she said, “but I may be a little biased.”

Delacruz moved to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and finished her last two years of high school online. Four years after discovering weightlifting, she won a silver medal at the 2018 junior world weightlifting championships.

Over the next two years, Delacruz won gold at the Pan American Championships and gold in a world cup in 2020. 

Jourdan Delacruz competes during a women's 49 kg. competition. (Photo by USA Weightlifting)

But the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic was hard on Delacruz. That combined with the stress of Olympic postponement and qualification left her exhausted by the time she reached Tokyo in July 2021.

“It was a whole year of thinking about the Olympics, then an extra year of that,” she explained. “By the time I got there, I was pretty burnt out and really just trying to hold on.”

Weightlifting is comprised of the snatch and clean and jerk, with three attempts at each lift. The heaviest lifts in each discipline are added together for an athlete’s final score. In Tokyo, Delacruz successfully lifted 86 kg. on her second attempt in the snatch and was sitting in third place. 

But the clean and jerk did not go well. She only had to lift 108 kilograms to stay in medal contention (she had successfully lifted 111 kg. at the 2020 Pan American Games), but she was unable to complete the lift.

“I’m not really sure,” Delacruz told reporters at the Tokyo Games. “It felt a little bit heavier, but the warmup was really good, so sometimes it just doesn’t pull out on the platform.”

It was the first day of the Tokyo Games, and Delacruz realized that her Olympic experience was over. The next day, she boarded a plane for Hawaii where she met her family.

In retrospect, she realizes that she should have taken the extra year from 2020 to 2021 to step back from weightlifting and reset mentally and emotionally.

“You have these expectations of what you think the Olympics is going to be like , and then Tokyo was just so unique,” she said. “No one could prepare me for that.”

Jourdan Delacruz speaks to the media at the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the Olympic Games Paris 2024 on April 16, 2024 in New York. (Photo by Getty Images)

Much has changed in Delacruz’s life since Tokyo. She graduated from college in the fall of 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Northern Colorado (and after the Paris Games, she plans to pursue a master’s degree, with an emphasis in sports nutrition).

She started Herathlete, an online space where female athletes can have an open discussion on topics like nutrition or those traditionally considered taboo, especially in a male-dominated sport. 

“Periods and stuff like that,” she described. “I want that to be spoken, I want girls to feel that they can talk about that with their coaches, their teammates, their support system.”

And she has come to see herself as an important role model — a woman who stands 4-foot-11 and weighs 107 pounds defying the weightlifter stereotype.

“People would ask me what sport I’m in, and I say weightlifting, and they look me up and down,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Are you sure? Really?’”

Mostly, Delacruz is a more mature athlete, prepared to think ahead and strategize, and who no longer overreacts after hard days in the gym.

In September 2023, she won her first world championship medal — a bronze in the 49 kg. division.

“I think I willed (the lifts) into place,” she told reporters at worlds. “It was like, ‘No way I’m letting this go.’”

While she would just as soon forget her Tokyo Olympics experience, Delacruz has framed it differently.

“My experience in Tokyo was heartbreaking,” she said. “It felt a little bit like I climbed all the way up to the top of the mountain and then fell back down. Going to Paris, I thought I was going to have to start over. But I've learned that my experience in Tokyo is just a part of my journey.”