Morghan didn’t take up weightlifting until she was 26, but four years later broke a national record in the 48kg event at Rio 2016.
The five-foot-tall American is now using her platform to inspire the next generation of female lifters and promote body positivity.
Morghan is also planning for her future after sport – if you’re thinking about your career transition too, check out our Athlete365 Career+ resources.
Being yourself, enjoying your journey and sharing your experiences with people is so important.
I practised gymnastics until I was nine years old, then started playing football around the age of 11 and followed that all the way through college. I also did athletics. This mixture of power sports really helped me later on as an athlete.
After college, I reached a point where I knew I still wanted to be competitive, but I just didn’t know what that was. I was tired of football by that point – I’d been doing it my whole life – so I got into marathons and triathlons for a little bit, but I got bored again!
Then a friend of mine said, “You should try CrossFit”, and straight away I loved it. I felt that competitive side of me coming back, and when I competed at regional level, I got the feeling that I really wanted to perfect something.
I wanted to get stronger, as I knew that was my weakness because I was so much smaller than the girls I competed against. I said to myself: “Okay, I’m going to get a good base, a good foundation”. The first time I tried weightlifting I knew it was for me. I loved the perfection of it, loved that it was always me against the bar.
Becoming a role model
My first goal was to go to the national championships in 2013 and place higher than fifth, but I did even better. I won my first nationals, made the international team and it just soared from there. The lead-up to Rio 2016 was the most magical four years you could ever imagine.
After I broke the US national record and finished sixth in the world in Rio, my Olympian friend Holley Mangold said to me: “I hope you realise that because of social media and the reach that we now have in weightlifting, you’ve inspired so many young girls”. Before that, it hadn’t really occurred to me, but afterwards I wanted to share the excitement of the Olympic Games.
In October 2018, I travelled to Buenos Aires as an Athlete Role Model for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). While I was there, my volunteer asked a Peruvian competitor how she got into weightlifting. She said that she had found me on Instagram, and that she was so inspired by what I was doing that she wanted to start working hard to get to the YOG. That’s so powerful, because as athletes we can become so focused on ourselves that we can forget the example we’re setting to others.
With being so much older than the girls at the YOG, I had all this life experience to share. To be able to help them on their journey and act as a role model was really exciting for me. I hope I can carry that with me for the rest of my life, even after I’ve retired from competition.
Promoting the benefits of strength training
It’s especially powerful to promote positive body images to women. There is a stigma attached to strength sports, where people often think: “We’re bodybuilders and we’re going to get really big”. But it’s not like that, and with the reach that we’re starting to get, we’re going to be able to encourage so many more young girls to consider strength sports and training.
You can also use weightlifting to complement any sport. It’s really important to make sure women know not to be scared of the bar or the weights. It’s going to make you stronger and more powerful – and that’s not something to be afraid of.
For me, there’s something about touching that iron. When you touch it there’s this incredible power that you feel. Not only on the outside, but inside you feel like you can do anything. That is just an incredible feeling, and I hope that more women will start to see and experience that for themselves.
Using social media as a positive platform
Weightlifting is such an individual sport, but social media challenges the feeling of being alone. I’ve always wanted to be able to inspire young girls and their mothers, and that was really important for me when I started getting into the public eye.
There’s this pressure of trying to be someone else all the time on social media, but I’ve always said that hard work comes first, and I just want to come off as genuine. If you’re projecting somebody else on social media, you’re going to start fighting with who you really are. Being yourself, enjoying your journey and sharing your experiences with people is so important.
Weightlifting is a full-time job – I train nine sessions a week in the gym before working on recovery after – and I’m now looking ahead to a future beyond competitive sport.
To prepare for my transition, I’ve been slowly going back to school to study sport psychology. It’s an area that’s still evolving within sport and I’d like to use my experiences as an athlete to hopefully help others. Psychology is the extra 10 per cent of learning how to cope with losing and winning. I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life.
It’s especially powerful to promote positive body images to women. There is a stigma attached to strength sports, where people often think: “We’re bodybuilders and we’re going to get really big”. But it’s not like that.