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Jourdan Delacruz standing with her arm up waving

No More Weighting

Alumna and professional weightlifter pursues her second Olympic games

Recent University of Northern Colorado (UNC) graduate Jourdan Delacruz ‘23 has a weekly routine that tires most people from just reading it. For the last 10 years, including while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics full-time, Delacruz has been going to the gym twice a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and does single sessions on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Even on her off days, Thursdays and Sundays, she spends time at physical therapy recovering. 

Though the rigorous routine sounds daunting to most, for Delacruz, it’s simply part of her job. And it’s paying off. Delacruz is a professional weightlifter who may soon be competing at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. This will be her second time on the international stage – she already represented Team USA at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. 

To qualify for  Paris 2024, a weightlifter must compete in four events and have the highest total points, which is how athletes are scored on two lifts—the  snatch, where the athlete lifts a barbell from the ground to over their head in one continuous motion, and the clean and jerk—a combination lift where they move the weight from the ground to the front of their shoulders (clean) and then shift it from their shoulders to overhead (jerk). Afterward, the judges combine the athlete’s total with their body weight and give them a world ranking. Each country sends three males and females based on their top three Olympic Qualification Rankings.  

Delacruz must compete in a few more events to meet the qualifications for the Olympics. Her last competition is in April, so she will know if she made the cut later that month or early May. 

She is already on her way, though. Last September, Delacruz competed in the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships in Saudi Arabia where she won a bronze medal after lifting 88 kg. (194 lbs.) in the snatch and 112 kg. (246.9 lbs.) in the clean and jerk for a staggering total of 200 kg. (440.9 lbs.). This spectacular performance propelled her from seventh place in the world last season to third place in the world this season. 

“It was a big event, and everyone felt the pressure,” Delacruz said. “The Olympics has its own different pressure because it is obviously the Olympics and has media attention. There’s a lot of expectations, but Worlds is equally challenging and has its own different types of pressure for the athletes.” 

But Delacruz wasn’t always a weightlifter. In fact, she was trying to become a stronger cheerleader in high school when she discovered her talents for weightlifting. She tried the sport as a way to cross train in hopes of becoming a stronger cheerleader, but quickly realized her new talents and abilities were something she should pursue. 

“I had a lot of talent for [weightlifting] from the very beginning,” Delacruz said. “So, I really took that and ran with it.” 

Giving the sport her all, Delacruz made the decision to switch from in-person to online school to finish high school in 2015. She moved to Colorado Springs for a year to train at the Olympic Training Center alongside athletes who were contenders for the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Although weightlifting was her main passion, Delacruz still wanted to pursue her college education. To have time for both coursework and training, she enrolled in UNC’s online Dietetic program. She says the university has one of the only dietetics programs in the country that offers a bachelor’s degree online. 

“I’m super passionate about food and I love science. Nutrition is a really big key component to peak performance and being a professional athlete. So, for me, it was always something that I wanted to pursue.” 

Throughout the past seven years, Delacruz had to master balancing college and her athletic career. Because her training was so time consuming, her education had to be extremely flexible, which is another reason Delacruz chose UNC. The flexibility of attending in-person labs at other universities and having online classes at UNC allowed her to pursue her Olympic dreams. 

I am grateful for the flexibility to pursue both my education and a professional career in athletics,” Delacruz said. “I decided to take this route since this is something I’m truly passionate about and wanted to pursue even if it would take longer to get my degree. No regrets yet.” 

Combining knowledge from her courses at UNC and her personal experience in training, Delacruz launched her brand, Herathlete, in 2023 during her final year in college. This unique online platform focuses on supporting female athletes. 

I created Herathlete to cultivate a community where athletes can have these important conversations and get support for themselves if they cannot find it in their own circles,” Delacruz said. 

She wants to focus Herathlete on topics such as periods, menopause, pregnancy, breastfeeding and birth control for athletes since she found these topics were not being discussed in athletic spaces. She wanted to create a safe space for women athletes to talk about these topics that she says are often overlooked. 

“Weightlifting has historically been a male-dominated sport and is still mostly made up of male coaches, though our female lifters are breaking world-class standards yearly. This makes the discussion around female-specific topics difficult to convey effectively,” Delacruz said.  

“Female-specific support can be there for athletes, even with limited research compared to our male-counterparts, only if we are having open and honest conversations around these ‘stigmas’.” 

Related: Going to the Mat, From UNC Wrestler to a 2024 Summer Olympics Hopeful

Recently, Delacruz has created content centered around nutritional needs during pregnancy, being an athlete while breastfeeding, tips for training, information on food insecurity and personal stories from her journey as an athlete. 

She eventually wants to expand Herathlete to provide nutrition services once she becomes a registered dietician after completing a master’s program. Even if she doesn’t know when she’ll start pursuing another degree program, she still wants to help wherever she can. 

“Nutrition is for everyone, and I want to provide support for everyone,” Delacruz said. “I wanted to start building this community[now] and when I’m ready to provide these services, I do have a space for that." 

Until then though, there is something more timely to which she plans to give her all. With the Paris Olympics right around the corner, she is going to dedicate herself to training, sometimes twice a day, in hopes of seeing the big stage once again. 

It's an exciting time right now for many athletes,” Delacruz said. “With that comes a lot of nerves, big performances and hopefully great memories.”

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