When she’s staring down at more than 200 pounds of cast iron—sometimes more than 300 pounds—she’s going to lift above her head, Olivia Reeves gives herself a vote of confidence.
“I do this every day. I do it, so there’s no reason that I can’t do it on this day,” Reeves, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, tells herself.
On June 29, the 19-year-old did that to the tune of setting new American records in women’s weightlifting. In the snatch competition, she lifted 242.5 pounds. In the clean and jerk, it was 304.2 pounds.
Reeves, who lives in Hixson, is now ranked No. 1 in the United States in the two categories, the only ones in competitive weightlifting. A chance to be in the 2024 Olympics looms Monday, Dec. 12, when she competes in the 2022 International Weightlifting Federation World Championships, held in Bogota, Columbia.
“It’s the first competition for athletes that will start the Olympic qualification,” said Reeves, majoring in exercise science (naturally) at UTC.
A fast talker who exudes confidence, Reeves said any worries about making the Olympics are at a minimum. At least right now.
“It doesn’t really seem real right now, so I don’t feel the pressure, but maybe after World (Championships) it will,” she said.
She said she began weightlifting in fourth grade, and her parents owned a CrossFit gym in Chattanooga. In 2015, she started lifting only in competitions that lead to the Olympics.
In 2016, she placed second in her first Youth Nationals, open to those 13 to 17 years old. From there, she was invited to a camp at an Olympic training center.
“After that I was like, ‘Hmm, I think I’m pretty good at this. I’m gonna stick with it,'” she said.
She works out four days a week, two hours at a pop, at Tennessee Speed and Strength. Her coach, Steve Fauer, started training her when she was 12.
“She’s got the God-given ability, but a lot of athletes have that. It’s her work ethic. It’s the desire,” said Fauer, owner of Tennessee Speed and Strength. “She’s having fun, and I think she’s found the right sport that really fits her and her personality.
“And she loves to train. It’s not just the competition. It’s the daily grind. She just really loves it.”
The amount of training hasn’t changed since her win, Reeves said, but there has been a change in the way she approaches it, she said.
“I would say mentally it’s different. This is more of my job than it is a hobby now. I love it.”