(L-R) Kate Nye and Mattie Rogers celebrating their podium finishes at the 2019 IWF World Championships on Sept. 23, 2019 in Pattaya, Thailand.
PATTAYA, Thailand -- Kate Nye and Mattie Rogers have each made their fair share of history in the weightlifting world over the past two years. And now they’ve made it together.
Competing in the women’s 71 kg. at the 2019 IWF World Championships, the American phenoms earned three medals each, including gold for Nye and silver for Rogers in total, Monday night.
“This means all my hard work paid off, and I know it’s cliché but it’s surreal to be here and I’m just so happy to represent my country while I make history with Mattie,” Nye said. “It was an incredible experience all-around and it’s something I’ll treasure in my heart forever.”
They are the first U.S. women’s weightlifters to go 1-2 at the world championships, and the first Americans of either gender to share a world championships podium in 30 years, since Karyn Marshall and Carol Cady claimed +82.5 kg. silver and bronze at the third women’s worlds in 1989.
Nye, who was making her senior worlds debut, could not have chosen a more apropos teammate with whom to share the podium; Rogers was her first female weightlifting role model when she entered the sport a handful of years ago.
“Mattie is someone that I’ve been looking up to since the beginning of my career, so chasing her and making it on teams with her, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions,” Nye said. “Lifting next to her is still weird to me because she’s someone I still look up to and she’s a great role model for our sport and a great ambassador of weightlifting in general. It’s just been awesome to share a podium with such an inspiration athlete in general.”
“I think this definitely shows how much USA has improved as a country and we’re definitely up there with the best now,” Rogers said of the double podium.
The podium showed two generations of weightlifters: Nye is on a meteoric rise, having just made her international debut last year and her senior-level international debut this year. Rogers, on the other hand, is in the second Olympic quadrennium of her career. After missing the 2016 Olympic team by one spot, she went on to medal at the next three worlds.
Both women’s performances in Thailand held a bevy of significance for each athlete and for U.S. weightlifting history.
Nye swept the gold medals with a 112 kg. snatch, 136 kg. clean & jerk and 248 kg. total. Rogers took snatch bronze with a 106 kg. lift, and clean & jerk (134) and total (240) silvers.
- At age 20, won gold at her first senior world championships and is now the youngest U.S. women’s world champion
- Having won the junior world championships in July, is now the reigning junior and senior world champion
- Only the fifth U.S. women’s world champion ever, behind Arlys Kovach (1987), Karyn Marshall (1987, 1989-90), Byrd-Goad and Sarah Robles (2017)
- Her snatch of 112 kg. broke five records: junior world, senior Pan American, junior Pan American, senior American and junior American, in her final year of junior eligibility
- Pattaya marked the 24-year-old’s fourth senior worlds and the third in a row at which she medaled
- After her 2017 silver was the first medal in 12 years for an American of either gender and her 2018 clean & jerk bronze marked the first time a U.S. lifter had medaled at consecutive worlds since 1994, Rogers is now the first from her country to medal at three straight in 25 years; Byrd-Goad earned medals each year from 1991 through 1994
- Tied her competition-high snatch of 106 kg., and set a personal-best clean & jerk of 134 kg. by one and 240 kg. total by two
Michigan native Nye is a former gymnast who after 11 years in that sport reached Level 9 (gymnastics has 10 levels prior to elite). Taking up CrossFit to stay in shape led to her discovery of weightlifting. Reaching the podium at the 2016 youth national championships – and realizing she could have a future in the sport – led to her full-time commitment to Olympic-style lifting.
Only last year, when she claimed all three silvers at junior worlds, did she realize she could have a shot at making the 2020 Olympic team. Then she and coach Josh Galloway went all out in pursuit of that dream.
“I couldn’t ask for a better athlete,” Galloway said about Nye. “She does what she’s asked, has a great attitude towards training, is very coachable, and more than anything she’s a competitor. We try to teach mental toughness, competition mindset and all that, but at the end of the day some people are born with it and some people aren’t; she’s born with it.”
Nye has made every team she could and competed internationally five times in 2019, with a final meet in Argentina planned for December.
“We went into this year knowing that we had to kill it,” Nye explained. “We missed senior worlds last year, so we were like if we want to make the Olympics, we’ve got to do some big things.
“The determined mindset is what got me here. Last year I wasn’t really thinking about winning senior worlds this year, I was just thinking about how can I get to the Olympics, what do I need to do. To get all these championships in the process is the cherry on top. It’s just something that I’ll remember forever. Like I said, the main goal is making the Olympics.”
The total an athlete puts up at an Olympic qualifying event is weighted differently depending on the meet. Nye won gold and had the highest total in her weight class at three gold-level events (weighted at 1.10) – senior Pan American championships, junior worlds and senior worlds – and took bronze at a silver event (x1.05), the Pan American Games Lima 2019, competing up a weight at 76 kg. At the junior Pan American championships, another gold event, she failed to successfully lift a snatch and didn’t have a total.
Other than that one hiccup, the road to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is as unblemished as can be for the wife and college student.
“You go in hoping, you go in with the best intentions, but you never know,” Nye said, looking at the latest three gold medals hanging around her neck. “It’s fierce competition; this is the biggest competition besides the Olympics. Going in, we saw the start list and knew we had a shot at this. I was planning to do the best I could and trying to make that happen, but realizing that and making it happen was on a whole other level.”
Nye missed her first snatch attempt of 106 kg. in Pattaya, which did not faze her.
“Going into the second one (107), I knew I was going to kill it because I had to, and going into that last attempt (112) I wasn’t going to take anything less than 112 because I wanted it [the junior world record] so bad, and I went into that lift knowing I had to destroy it.”
She had missed her last attempt at 112 in Lima in late July.
“That was a stab to the heart, so I knew if I had another shot I was going to seize the moment and that was going to happen,” she said. “I was elated, I can’t even describe the happiness I felt on the stage. That is probably going to go down as my favorite moment on stage.”
Nye made her first two clean & jerk attempts of 131 and 136 kg., with her total then breaking her own junior American, senior American, junior Pan American and senior Pan American records. But the final attempt at 141 kg., for a shot at those four clean & jerk records, which she missed, will continue to haunt her.
“I’m happy that I did what I had to for the win, but as an athlete you’re trained to not be satisfied with what you do because then you’re not going to make any progress,” Nye explained. “Leaving 141 out there, I was proud of what I’d done but I knew I had that in me and it was so close to being made. It was kind of a punch to the stomach.”
It’s a record that she will have to let go of for now, as this was her last competition at 71 kg. Nye is moving up to the Olympic category of 76 kg., which she will next contest at December’s South American Junior Championships in Argentina, where her quest for knocking down 76 kg. records will commence.
Rogers is also a former gymnast, who after 12 years in that sport then transferred to cheerleading. Three years later she found CrossFit and, eventually Olympic weightlifting.
She is now the face of the sport in the United States for many. Her talents have attracted an impressive following of more than 615,000 followers on Instagram.
Having experienced all facets of the sport – from narrowly missing an Olympic berth to breaking droughts as she wins world medals – Rogers’ mindset was different at these worlds.
“I’m really just happy to be here,” she said. “I was here for myself more than anything else – not after a medal, not after a total, not after any particular person – just here to have fun and I think we did a really good job of doing that.”
The Florida resident also went through her fair share of trying times this year, including an injury, food poisoning at the Pan American championships that led to her throwing up between attempts, bouncing around categories between 69 kg. and 76 kg., and a coaching change that occurred late last month.
Also new for Rogers is the ring around her finger. She said yes to marrying now-fiancé Sean McCormick when he proposed on the beach.
McCormick was in Pattaya, supporting Rogers every step of the way.
“This is the third worlds that he’s come to and the third medal, so I think that he has to come to every single one now,” she said. “I think he gets more nervous than I do, but I’m so glad that he’s here.”
In Pattaya, Rogers made her first two snatch attempts of 103 and 106 kg., the latter tying her personal best at an international meet, but missed the third at 108.
Similarly, in the clean & jerk, she made 130 and 134 kg., but missed 137. Her second attempt and total were both personal bests.
The fact that she has medal three consecutive years – something very few athletes from any nation achieve – is not lost on her.
“I’m super excited about that. That was obviously kind of in the back of my mind but I really just wanted to enjoy myself. This was such a rough year for me…” Rogers trailed off as tears started to flow. “I’m just really happy to be here.”