Heritage High School sophomore Isabella Rivera started participating in CrossFit as an 8-year-old after watching her parents compete in local events. A year later, Rivera was introduced to the sport of Olympic weightlifting.
"The gym offered a weightlifting program, so I decided to move on to that," Rivera said. "I just picked it up really quick. I happened to be good at it and really enjoyed it."
Rivera's passion for the sport has led to her competing at the International level for Team USA Weightlifting. Rivera, 15, recently claimed three silver medals at the Youth Pan Am Games, which were contested virtually this year.
Rivera lifted 78 kilograms (172 pounds) in the snatch and 100 kilograms (220 pounds) in the clean and jerk for a total of 178 kilograms (392 pounds) at the Youth Pan Am Games. Her total in the snatch was a personal best.
A former soccer standout, Rivera has competed nationally in weightlifting for five years. Rivera -- a champion for her age and weight division at the 2020 USA Youth Nationals -- says one of her most memorable performances surfaced at the 2018 USA Youth Nationals. Her and another female competitor, both age 13, went back-and-forth in setting national records on each lift.
Rivera, who moved to Leesburg with her family from Texas in the summer of 2018, trains five days a week. She trains three times weekly at CH Fitness & Performance in Arlington as a member of the CHFP Weightlifting team and twice weekly at her home gym.
"I've definitely become a lot more confident," Rivera said. "Especially seeing other women in weightlifting, it's so amazing. Weightlifting wasn't as big when I was younger. So, I was kind of more self-conscious about it."
"But since the sport has grown, so has my confidence," she continued. "My coach is a female, all my other teammates that have made international teams are female. It's awesome."
Outside of weightlifting, Rivera finds time to participate in several school activities. She is a member of the Varsity Club at Heritage, competes on the academic team and is the team manager for the Pride's varsity boys' basketball team.
Rivera is excited to continue her growth in weightlifting. She aspires to compete at the college level, noting that there are a few colleges that offer scholarships for weightlifting. For now, her goal is to maintain a spot-on Team USA and remain healthy.
"I just love competing," Rivera said. "It gives me a rush of adrenaline to compete against people stronger than me. I always want to be better."