Cool. I’ll give you a SparkNotes version of it. This is arguably the hardest question for me because I never know how much detail to include. I guess if you want me to go into more detail on any point of the story, you can let me know.
I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I played soccer my entire life. From the time I was about eight years old. Sports were always part of my identity. The thing that brought most happiness to my life, the thing I identified the most with, just being an athlete.
I played for the National Venezuelan Soccer Team. We actually were the first female professional soccer team in Venezuela. Soccer in Venezuela at that point in time wasn’t developed. There wasn’t a lot of people interested, and we had no structure. By the way, they are actually killing the team now.
I moved to the States with the intention of becoming a professional soccer player, obviously. I got a scholarship at San Diego State University to play soccer. My plan was to have a better chance at having a higher-level education and more quality education but also see where I could take my soccer.
Moving to the States and being 17 years old, being away from my family and my coach, and all of that was difficult because I felt like I had no support.
When you’re 17 and things start getting tough, and you add a bunch of other variables like adjusting to a culture, learning a new language, being tested in that new language, having to make friends and find your place socially. It got very lonely because I felt like I was just juggling too many things and not really doing any of them very well.
The one that consumed most of my time was soccer. We trained multiple times per day. Training sessions were really long and hard. I decided I that maybe I needed to focus more on my school because soccer was a little bit uncertain. Whereas I knew that by getting good grades, getting a good education, preparing myself for a future, that could potentially yield more benefits in the long run.
I decided to stop playing soccer, decided to move to Miami because it was closer to home. It’s only like two-and-a-half-hour flight to Venezuela and also culturally, this is pretty much like South America here in Miami. It felt a lot more like home and I felt like it was a better environment for me at the time.
I always say that in hindsight, looking back at that time in my life, I feel like if I had half the mental strength, and the perspective and attitude that I have nowadays, I would have never quit. I would have definitely found a way to persevere and go through. That for me was a lesson that when things get rough, you should try to ride it out and try to see what comes out of it.
Moved to Miami. Again, felt a bit lost as far as my identity goes. I stopped playing soccer, wasn’t an athlete anymore. I thought I would be OK with that, but I started looking for other sports to play, because I felt really empty. I don’t know. I wasn’t ready to not be an athlete anymore. Just did a bunch of different sports, half marathons, triathlons. I rode bikes. I tried skateboarding.
I also took kickboxing, boxing classes, and then eventually landed in CrossFit. I went to school with Noah Ohlsen, and he was the one that introduced me to CrossFit. They had a Canes CrossFit Club, it’s called. It was really close to campus. We would meet every day. We would train.
I love the competitive aspect of CrossFit. It really made me feel like an athlete. Anyone who’s tried CrossFit who was an athlete before can attest to that, where everyone really cares about what time they’re getting, what weight they’re moving. The coaches are encouraging. I really love that competitive atmosphere.
From there, just trying to improve my different skills for CrossFit. The first one, the most evident one for me that needed work was weightlifting, lifting weights, because I had never lifted weights in my life. Even though I was in the national soccer team in Venezuela, we didn’t have access to a gym.
It’s not a prestigious thing to be in the national soccer team in Venezuela. We played in a dirt field. If we weren’t playing in a dirt field, we were playing on the beach, for our conditioning. We didn’t really have gym and weights and anything like that. I felt I needed to get stronger, and I needed to improve my snatch [inaudible 7:03] .
Hired a weightlifting coach, got into that. Did it for about three years or four years at a pretty high level, competed in states, American Open. I didn’t actually end competing at the American Open but I qualified. Then got into grad school. Getting into grad school…
I feel like my SparkNotes story ended up being way longer. Sorry, guys. Bear with me. I’m at the tail end. It’s almost over, I promise. Going into grad school, really hard to balance Olympic weightlifting and grad school because weightlifting demands so much of you, both from a focus standpoint and from the amount of time that you have to dedicate to really be competitive.
It was kind of a similar story to when I was doing CrossFit, where I wanted to improve on a particular skill. In this case, it was strength. I thought that if I got better and squat bench deadlift that I could improve my weightlifting after grad school, but I ended up just switching to powerlifting and staying there.