At 26 years old, Salt Lake City native Maci Winn is one of the state’s up-and-coming weightlifters on a national and international scale. From her involvement in athletics at an early age, to working towards her MD/PhD Degree at the University of Utah, Winn is setting the stage to make a name for herself.
Many of Winn’s family members work in the healthcare field, which has influenced her decision to study medicine.
Her parents were supportive of her involvement in sports throughout her early years, and at Highland High, where she participated in a variety of sports.
“Sportswise, I loved high school,” said Winn. “When I think about high school, I only think about sports. I did a little bit of everything ― gymnastics, diving, and track and field ― but the sport I mainly did in high school was diving. I had a phenomenal coach. She was a great role model and leader.”
After high school, Winn attended college at Southern Utah University in Cedar City.
“I decided to start doing Crossfit and learned pretty quickly how strong I was naturally. I realized I had a natural ability with a barbell.”
As a result of Crossfit, she became more interested in weightlifting competitively, and in 2016, the Olympic Trials were held in Salt Lake City.
“Watching the Olympic Trials ended up being what I thought was the coolest thing ever,” said Winn. “I was completely in love with it the second I watched it in person. I remember turning to my dad and saying, ‘I’m going to do that one day.’”
Since Southern Utah University didn’t have a competitive weightlifting program, Winn decided to continue with Crossfit until graduating from college, when she moved back to Salt Lake City to further pursue her education at the U of U. This led her to begin her competitive weightlifting journey.
Winn’s passion for weightlifting was apparent from the time she attended the Olympic Trials, but that passion grew even stronger the first day she entered the gym.
“I remember my first day was just kind of one of those moments where I thought, ‘this will be one of the best decisions I make in my life,’” she recalls.
A couple of months later, she participated in her first competition at a local meet in St. George.
“I hadn’t competed in any sport for a while, so I remember being nervous, but it was so much fun. It reminded me how much I love competing. I was motivated to continue working hard and trying to get better at weightlifting because I loved it from the get-go.”
As the training and competitions continued, Winn began to hit her stride as a competitive weightlifter, eventually competing in the National Championships in July 2022.
“At the National Championships … I was competing and trying to make a spot on the World Championship team because that was the first Olympic Qualifier for 2024. We were going for the biggest numbers I could possibly lift.”
Winn was well on her way to qualifying for the 2024 Olympics with this lift when catastrophe struck.
“There are two lifts ― the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. I won in the Snatch. During the Clean and Jerk, I made my first, missed my second, and got myself under the bar, but my back foot ended up slipping. I fell on the ground and the barbell landed on the back of my leg and snapped it in half. I was rushed away on a stretcher, and while in the ambulance, I found out that I ended up winning the whole competition. My little sister had to stand on the podium for me.”
This injury would have been career-ending for some, but Winn didn’t waste any time feeling sorry for herself.
“I took a week off after my injury before I went back to the gym,” she explained. “It took me two surgeries and six months to be able to walk without crutches. Most of the past eight months have been trying to see what my body is capable of. My teammates have primarily helped me through my injury and I am so grateful for them.”
Winn is optimistic about her future in weightlifting.
“Unfortunately, the next Olympics are off the table because of my injury, but I think my weightlifting goal hasn’t changed,” she said. “Hopefully, I can do what it takes to become one of the best weightlifters in the country.”
Weightlifting has affected many aspects of Winn’s life and continues to teach her important lessons every day.
“A big lesson I’ve learned from weightlifting, in general, is how important it is in life to do the things that you love to do.”
She also said that this past year has taught her new life lessons that she will apply to her weightlifting as she rebounds from her injury.
“I think, especially this past year, I have learned a lot about patience and resilience. I don’t even think I really knew what those two things were until this past year. Success doesn’t happen overnight. I’m still learning that lesson in hard ways, but I’m hopefully a more patient and resilient person after this.”
Winn plans to compete in the National Championships this summer in order to get back into the competition routine. She also wants to give others hope that a return to the sport is possible after such a major setback.
“I think it’ll be good for people to see me at the event this year. It’s been a huge part of my recovery process. I hope to be able to help people through their own process of injury and help them see that it’ll be okay.”
Winn will document her journey to the National Championships this summer on her TikTok and Instagram accounts. Users can find her by searching @maciwinn on either platform.
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