ATLANTA - Conyers native Chandler Alford, 22, will try to capture his dream this weekend and become one of three weightlifters in his weight class to make the 2008 USA Olympic Weightlifting Team.
Alford, a 2004 Woodward High School graduate and current senior at Georgia Tech, is competing this weekend in the USA Weightlifting Olympic Team Trials at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
"This is it," Alford said. "At the end of the day on Saturday, we will know who will be competing at the Olympics in Beijing."
But the road to the Olympic trials wasn't an easy one.
Two years ago, Alford moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., and was well on his way to putting together a solid weightlifting resume by winning the Junior National Championship in March of 2006.
However, a back injury he sustained shortly after temporarily derailed his dream.
"Toward the end of my time in Colorado, I injured my back and was pretty much off the platform for about 12 weeks," he said. "My biggest problem after the year of rehab was getting my body back to being used to handling such an incredible amount of weight."
Alford's rehabilitation has been an arduous journey.
"It probably took me a full year to recover from the injury. I still competed, but I was really trying to get my confidence back and make sure that my body could still handle the old load it used to be able to handle," he said. "I really knew that I was back in good shape when I competed in the U.S. Open in December of 2007 and placed second. That meet qualified me to compete in the Olympic trials."
Alford said he's as strong now as he's ever been.
"My back is not giving me any problems and I've been training throughout the school year, so I'm feeling pretty good," he said.
At 170 pounds, Alford will be competing in the 77-kilogram weight class this weekend.
"I will probably have to combine a total weight of 320 kilograms, which comes out to about 700 pounds in the clean and jerk and the snatch. My best weight right now is 650, so I'm going to have to increase by about 50 pounds."
Even if Alford is not able to earn one of the three spots up for grabs this weekend, he'll still be busy this year.
Besides qualifying for the Olympic trials, Alford has also qualified for the Collegiate World University Championships, which take place in November in Athens, Greece.
Through it all, Alford said maintaining his health and well-being are the ultimate goals of weightlifting for him.
"The primary goal for me in the big picture is to stay in optimal shape so that I can enjoy everyday things in life, not just in my 20s and 30s, but for as long as I live," he said. "I focus on all aspects of it - the dieting, the resting and recovering, and everything else - as a general well-being.
"With that said, I hurt my back when I was 20, so I was very conservative with my rehabilitation with the weights I lifted and how I felt. I was aggressive in the sense that we spent hours and hours making sure everything was the way a 20-year-old should be moving. Because of that, I was able to recover as fast as I did. Now, with that over and done with, I feel ready to go."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.