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Kiana Elliott: from Gymnast to Weight Lifter

Official Siren Collaborator Mary Konstantopoulos spoke to gymnast turned weightlifter Kiana Elliott as the athlete looks firmly toward the Tokyo Olympics, ready to represent Australia.

Kiana Elliott has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Sourced: NSW Weight Lifting Association
Kiana Elliott has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Sourced: NSW Weight Lifting Association

Last week when Kiana Elliott was named as part of Australia’s Olympic team to compete in Tokyo it was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

“Representing Australia was something that was mentioned to me when I was quite young,” said Elliott.

“It planted a little seed in my head and it made me wonder whether it was something I could actually do.

“For it to be actually happening, I just want to be enjoying it.”

The only difference between Elliott’s childhood dreams and what she is about to embark on in Tokyo is the sport.

Until age 14, Elliott was an elite gymnast. After several major injuries, including stress fractures in her back and breaking her femur, Elliott made the tough decision to retire from the sport. What came after was something many athletes have to contend with; who am I away from my sport?

“I had never spent a second thinking about what I would do after gymnastics,” said Elliott.

“I went from training 40 hours a week to doing nothing.

“It was a huge identity crisis for a 14 year old; at that age your body is changing so quickly and my body just felt so foreign to me.”

Elliott was craving something physical to do so she turned to her local gym. That was her first exposure to a barbell and its movements. That was when Elliott took up weightlifting, the sport she would eventually go on to represent Australia in at the Tokyo Olympics.

“As a young girl growing up, I never would have pictured myself doing weightlifting,” said Elliott.

“It’s a bit more mainstream now, but in my head I pictured a super heavyweight buckling under a massive plate.

“I never pictured myself doing it and it wasn’t until I tried it and started working with a coach that I considered taking it further.”

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Initially, what began as a hobby, quickly became something more. Elliott started by focusing on catching up to the women she was training with. She had some work to do with a 10 year age gap between her and the other members of her training group. Then when she met her current coach, he asked her about what her ultimate goal would be. Elliott had her response ready.

“I wanted to represent Australia,” said Elliott.

“But I thought it was a long shot.”

From there Elliott went on to make a youth Australian team and went to a Commonwealth Championship.

Despite missing out on Olympic selection in 2016 when she was just 18 years old, that then gave Elliott the opportunity to compete at the Junior World Championships. She won a bronze medal in the 63 kilogram class, becoming Australia’s first medallist at a Junior World Championships for more than two decades.

Despite that massive achievement, Elliott still struggled with missing out on Olympic selection.

“When I came home from the Junior Worlds and had to watch the Olympics from home, I really struggled with what could have been,” said Elliott.

“I struggled with my motivation to train.

“It took me a while to get back into my weightlifting, but I am so glad I kept going.”

Now, Elliott will represent Australia in weightlifting in Tokyo later this year and she encourages everyone to tune in.

“Tokyo and the Olympic Games are the pinnacle event for weightlifting,” said Elliott.

“All the stars have to align for you to make it and that’s what makes it so fascinating to watch.

“You can be part of the athlete’s journey and watch them go through the process of sport; to succeed, to be disappointed. People can learn a lot from that.”

Since Elliott has already had to retire ‘once’ from elite sport, she is in a position where she has had a taste of what it might feel like when she retires from weightlifting.

“Facing retirement at a young age, you go through a grieving process for your sport,” said Elliott. 

“The truth is I still dream about gymnastics and wake up in the night thinking about it, but that process has given me a hell of a lot more perspective and more insight.

“I know I won’t be doing weightlifting for the rest of my life, so I need to think about my life as my life and not just about sport.”

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