Each month, Team USA Awards presented by Dow celebrates outstanding achievements of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Weightlifter Kate Nye won Female Athlete of the Month for September 2019 after sweeping the women’s 71 kg. division titles at the world championships, in the process becoming the youngest U.S. woman to win a world title in the sport. In Nye’s Diamond Club feature, presented by Dow, she discusses how weightlifting benefits her mind and body.
Weightlifting might appear to be a simple sport. There’s much more to lifting heavy weights than pure strength, though, and the sport is much more than an avenue for getting stronger.
“It teaches you to be dedicated and motivated and persistent,” U.S weightlifter Kate Nye said. “Those are overall qualities I think that have been enhanced by my weightlifting. And physically I have been in the best shape of my life. And I have been challenged physically in ways that I never have been….
“Weightlifting has definitely made me a better person, both physically and mentally.”
It has made her so good that Nye recently won three gold medals at the world championships in Thailand, in the snatch (112 kg.), clean & jerk (136 kg.) and total of 248 kg. titles for the women’s 71 kg. division At age 20, she became the youngest U.S. women’s world champion in the sport and broke five snatch records in the process (junior world, junior and senior Pan American, and junior and senior American). Her total weight was also a new junior and senior American record.
“Oh, my gosh, it was one of the most amazing moments in my life. It was surreal,” said Nye, who is also the reigning junior world champion, having won that title in July. “I just felt so much pride and was so excited to be able to do that… I never really expected it. I went in with the best intentions, but you don’t want to go in there being cocky about it either. So when I went there I was surprised, but I knew what I was capable of. It was a great day for me to reflect back on all my hard work and it paid off.”
Nye’s victory continued a fast rise in the sport.
Growing up in Michigan (where she still lives), Nye started gymnastics at age 5 after watching that sport on TV during the Olympic Games Athens 2004. She competed for about 11 years before stopping in late 2014. Nye had reached Level 9; gymnastics has 10 levels prior to elite.
“I quit when I was 15 due to a lot of reasons,” she said. “I tore my meniscus and had surgery and decided I just didn’t want to go back. My heart wasn’t in it anymore.”
Then she started working out at a CrossFit gym, where she met up with weightlifting coach Josh Galloway, who helped get her into that sport.
Kate Nye competing at the 2019 World Weightlifting Championships on Sept. 24, 2019 in Pattaya, Thailand.
“He really recruited me to be a weightlifter and be competitive at a national level,” she said. “And I thought he was crazy. ‘How do you know I can be competitive at a national level? I haven’t even lifted for you yet.’ He said, ‘Trust me. If you give me your time, I’ll make you the U.S. national medalist.”
She did. And Galloway remains her coach to this day.
The decision to take up the sport has paid off with more than medals.
Nye – who previously competed as Kate Vibert before marrying Noah Nye on Nov. 30, 2018 – says weightlifting helps “make you better.” While the weights can be heavy and sometimes wear you down, it still can make you stronger and also improve many portions of your body.
“I’m so passionate about this because I think anybody can benefit from having a barbell in their hands for a multitude of reasons,” Nye said. “I know it’s great scientifically for your bone health and your overall muscle health. When you age, it definitely shows (well) if you lifted weights growing up. I think physically, people can benefit from it because they gain strength, their bones are healthier, they have good mobility and body awareness — all that stuff.
“Like I said earlier, the mental aspect of it is really great because you learn how to be disciplined and push through the hard sets and that kind of stuff.”
Nye says weightlifting has helped her bipolar and ADHD disorders become less of an issue.
“If I was down, I feel like it made me happier,” she said.
Weightlifting can be difficult at the start, but Nye has quickly excelled.
“Of course, it’s gotten easier,” she said, “but at the same time, there is always more to improve on.”
She says she works out six days a week, three hours a day, plus two two-a-day workout sessions.
“I’ll do pre-hab. I’ll do warmup for any important muscle groups. I’ll do stretching just to make sure I’m all ready to go and don’t put myself at risk for injury,” she said. “After that, we usually do technique work, the classic lifts that we do in competition — the snatch and the clean & jerk. And typically I’ll also do a strength thing like squatting, pressing, all that kind of stuff, including dead lifts. Then we usually cap off with some accessory work with lighter stuff that helps you build those lighter muscle groups. We’ll do some cooldown stuff, too, like stretching for any rehab I might have to do.”
The next big goal for Nye will be to compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Her results from the past year have put her in strong position to qualify for the team, and if she does, she will be an early medal favorite in the 76 kg. category (71, in which she won her world title, is not on the Olympic program).
“I’m hoping to go to Tokyo. I want to continue to work super hard and competing well so that I can earn my spot,” she said. “I just want to make sure I keep working hard, but I’m definitely looking forward to that opportunity, to what all I’ve been working for since I started my career.
“I’m just working day by day and trying not to think about it too much; treating it like a normal competition. My goal is to go to the Olympics and make my mark on my first Olympics and hopefully earn a medal for Team USA.”
Jim Caple is a former longtime writer for ESPN and the St. Paul Pioneer Press based in Seattle. He has covered sports on six continents, including 12 Olympic Games and 20 World Series. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.