TOKYO — With the silver medal draped around her neck, American weightlifter Kate Nye wasn’t going to complain.
It was only five years ago, after all, that she took up this sport — a remarkable turnaround time from beginner to Olympian, much less a medalist. And it was only a couple years ago, after a poor showing at the Junior Pan American Championships in Cuba, that Nye went into a state of severe depression, leading to a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder.
Given what it took to find the right treatment plan to come out of that and the long road from there to the Tokyo Olympics, setting a personal best with a 138-kg lift in the clean-and-jerk Sunday was a massive accomplishment for the 22-year old from Oakland Township, Michigan. It just wasn’t quite good enough for gold for Nye, who was considered by many to be the favorite in this event.
"A silver medal is a huge victory for me and my country and I’m not going to sit here and cry about a silver medal," she said. "As much as I’d have loved to win, this is just a huge moment for me."
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And yet, it was impossible to look at the way the 76 kg finals played out and not wonder "what if?" as Ecuador’s Neisi Dajomes claimed the gold.
On Nye’s third and final snatch — the weightlifting competition combines the heaviest successful lift in both the snatch and clean-and-jerk to determine the winner — it appeared she cleared 114 kg to put her in the lead with Dajomes still having one more attempt to go.
But just moments after Nye left the stage celebrating with her coaches, the jury called for a video review of the lift. After a long deliberation, they threw out the attempt, judging her to be in violation of a rule by releasing the bar while it was still above her shoulders. Though it was a close call — and something that judges can and do excuse at times — Nye said she believes it was a correct one.
"I’m not happy about it, but when it comes down to it there’s rules in place and if someone else did it I’d probably want it to be overturned too," she said. "So I think it’s fair and just have to live and learn from it."
Ultimately, though, it left Nye in a position that was nearly impossible for her to win gold because it bumped her snatch component down to 111 kg, leaving her too far behind Dajomes’ 118 kg, which she attained on her third attempt.
Other than that, Nye said the sequence of the lifts played out as she had planned. Her second clean-and-jerk attempt secured second place, but it wasn’t enough to put any pressure on Dajomes, who easily cleared 140 kg on her second attempt to put the gold medal out of reach.
"My medal is a reflection of all my hard work and I think I ended up where I need to be," she said.
Nye indicated she will now point toward the 2024 Games in Paris and will continue to speak up about destigmatizing mental health issues. As someone who has been very public about dealing with her bipolar disorder, she said it has been interesting to see mental health become such a prominent topic at these Olympics, largely due to Simone Biles pulling out of the women’s team competition last week when she did not feel it was safe for her to compete.
"I hope that I can show people what it means to be bipolar," she said. "I think it’s important for athletes to be regarded as humans and not just robots for people’s entertainment and I think mental health and people thinking about the struggles really humanizes us and I hope we can see more of it."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kate Nye overcomes bipolar disorder, wins Olympic weightlifting silver