'You don't want to ruin their Zen'
THE CAMARADERIE within the Australian Commonwealth Games weightlifting team is something Alyce Stephenson will never forget.
The women's 48kg competitor was one of the first Australian athletes to compete on the Gold Coast. Stephenson said it was a unique experience being part of 'Team Australia'.
"I'd never been in an environment where I had to go back to my room and there were other girls who still had to compete,” Stephenson said.
"You had to be mindful of that. You could tell some were getting nervous watching others go (to compete).
"I honestly think I had the best of it. We were lucky to get into (the athletes village) the Monday before it started.
"I got to spend that first week training and tapering down as part of a team. I really enjoyed that part.
"It made cutting weight really easy. Being around all of those people kept me distracted.
"By the time the opening ceremony came I was glad I was on the first day. It would have felt like such a long time otherwise.”
The 27-year-old ultimately fell in love with the team-first ethos and Aussie spirit.
"We were a team full of newbies like myself, but with a lot of experienced lifters,” Stephenson said.
"We got a gold, silver and bronze in the team. It was great. The night Tia-Clair (Toomey) won gold was fantastic, everyone got really excited.
"Every day for those five days of competition we could celebrate wins. Every session there was a different emotion. We just tried to be there for each other.
"In the end we were lucky it was in Queensland and a lot of people had family and friends there as well.”
Stephenson provided a rare insight into the inner workings of international-level competition.
"You meet with your coaches before the day. You have a gameplan and know what lifts you'll do,” she said.
"Obviously if you miss a lift or you're feeling really good you might change it. But for me it was just about doing my best. We weren't going for medals or anything like that.
"You don't really talk to the other competitors. You have your own platform (in the training room). Your head is down, and everyone is quite serious.
"You leave the other athletes alone. You don't want to ruin their Zen.
"But I was just trying to enjoy it all. Afterwards I got to chat to the girls who were finished and congratulate them.”