Last weekend, I traveled to Austin, Texas. I was competing in Olympic Weight Lifting Nationals.

After 4 months of hard training, here I was among the best. “If I’m here, then that means I’m one of the best.” I thought repeatedly. I kept trying to wrap my head around this fact, because I hadn’t ever been this exceptional at anything.

Saturday morning; game day, competition day, kick some ass day.  Anxiety crawled up my skin.  “I’ve never been this nervous!” I told my mom and weightlifting coach, Toni.

I opened the glass doors to the conference hall to attend a short meeting. All the kids looked just like me; muscular and short. I was standing in the midst of the greatest weightlifters in America aged 11-17. Among all of them was me.

After a quick meeting and a few anxious minutes, I was signed in and ready to go.

Energy built up inside me.  I couldn’t wait to grip the cool, steel bar and lift it with all my might, with perfect form.  I was not going to fail.

The conference room was made up of three stages.  Each one had three judges sitting in front.  Family and friends cheered on.

Most people think lifting is about brute force.  It’s not.  It’s a perfect balance of strength, technique and control.  That’s what the judges are there for – to make sure you complete a “good lift.” This means that your elbows don’t press out and you don’t drop the bar. Two white lights mean “good lift” and two red lights mean “no lift.”

There I was, warming up and waiting for my time to step on that stage and lift what sits in front of me. I shook in both excitement and anxiety.

“Lily Ellison starting off with 35kg(77lbs)” says the announcer.

“My time! My lift! I can do this!” I repeat in my head as I shake my hands and step onto the platform. I could see my mom with her flashy little camera and big grin.

I love to see that every time I step up to make a lift. Her smile warms my heart and gives me confidence and strength I need to lift heavy weight.

I could see my trainer on the side and hear him in my head telling me that I can do this and I’ve done it a million times before. It was easy weight and he was right, I have done this and I can do it.

I could feel my heart pumping blood through every inch of my body. I took a deep breath. With a simple inhale and exhale, I had converted my nerves into energy. One hand here and one hand there, I stand it up with a perfect balance of stamina and technique.

“Good lift for Lily Ellison.” I smile ear to ear and hug my trainer.

I ended the competition with a 38kg (84lbs) snatch, and a 48kg(106lbs) clean and jerk. This placed me number 15 in the nation for 14-15 year old girls. I couldn’t be happier with my performance. I tried my best and that all I could do. Next year I am going to place top 5, so this girls better watch out.