How Does One Begin to Dream?
Written by Samie Acevedo

What is it about a person that instills BIG dreams and even more, what instills in them the agency to go after that dream? Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s…community. 

Remember the name. If you don’t know it already. Nairobi Romero aka nairobatron. Aka Nai. 

If you have been around for a while, you might remember Nairobi as the young Invictus prodigy. She started at Invictus at 11 years old when her dad told her about a gym, right around the corner from where she lived. This was back in the day in the old Columbia Street location in Little Italy. The moment she started at Invictus, she was hooked. Her athletic career really began when she became serious about track and tennis. Soon, working with coaches at Invictus, she began realizing that she really really liked this competitive CrossFit and Weightlifting world. At 15 years old, she punched her ticket to the CrossFit Games. Now before you think, “15??? I wish I started CrossFit when I was young! I would be so much better now…” Remember, she started at 11 and it took FOUR years of HARD work and a level of dedication to her training like no other. Not many 11 year-olds, heck not many 30, 40, 70-year-old possess this level of dedication. Not many people start off with a dream and do everything in their power to stay the course. 

At 15, Nairobi competed in the CrossFit Games in Carson. She was dabbling in Olympic weightlifting too and soon she started getting good. Like really really good. She competed in national weightlifting competitions, she was invited to train at the Olympic Training Center, and one could say that after that experience, she knew in her heart that she not only wanted to compete in the Olympics…but she knew she was GOING TO compete in the Olympics. And while we can list all the successes and accolades Nairobi has well deservedly achieved in weightlifting and CrossFit, what is not often talked about is the struggles, the dedication, and the sacrifices it takes to make a dream come true. 

If you are in the gym, you will see Nairobi diligently training. You’ll see her squatting over 300lb for multiple reps, you will see her snatching over 175lb and cleaning 230lb from the blocks. And while you watch and admire her external achievements, remember to admire not just the weight she lifts, but the dedication it takes to get there. 

We often hear that we are the product of our environment. If you are in an environment where there is chaos, where there is fear, or where big dreams are shot down with doubts, making goals come true is not impossible, but the process of actualizing those goals will face many obstacles. Not impossible, but also not ideal. Big or small, goals and dreams are instilled, they are fostered and they require accountability. That is why in every movie, there is a supporting character. We are the stars of our own films, but it is impossible to carry out our journey alone. Recognizing that you need support, that you need community.

Being at Invictus, growing up with champions in fitness and athletics only fueled and supported Nairobi’s dreams. There is nothing like being in an environment where everyone is working to better themselves. Being in an environment where coaches and mentors know the perfect balance of supporting you and pushing you, is worth more than gold when working towards a goal. Nariobi knew this and recognized this and has always been grateful for the Sea of Green’s support. She is also very thankful for her mom, España Garcia’s, support. Her mom is and will ALWAYS be her biggest fan and supporter. 

When speaking to Nairobi, you can hear her gratitude for the good wishes and support on her journey. As she has grown older, the support and community mean the world to her. And while her dream of competing internationally and competing for Team USA is stronger than ever, she has learned the value of support on the journey. 

At 23 years old, Nairobi realized that her Olympic dream is an intersectional representation of her values. As a plant-based lifter, she often receives comments of how she can be strong and not eat meat? As a Latina, she recognized the privilege and representation she is to little brown girls everywhere. That girls CAN be strong and confident. That being bigger and growing muscles is beautiful and should be celebrated. That even if you don’t have the resources as others do, find a group or a community of strong people who will help elevate you. That is what she wants to give back to the world. It is more than competing for Team USA. It is about the journey there and creating a path for others to say, “If she can do it, so can I.” It’s about the many obstacles she has faced, and yet keeps persisting and keeps believing. 

She is still working on her mental strength and believing in herself, even when facing obstacles. We all have doubts when we are working towards a goal. Can I do this? Am I good enough? Am I worthy of dreaming and making this dream come true? Should I be progressing faster? Why am I not where that other person is? These thoughts and doubts are very real for Nairobi, but that is when she steps back to reflect and she leans on her community. 

At 16  years of age,  in an interview, she stated, “I don’t use other people’s limits as my own limits. I believe I can do whatever I can imagine.” If we can learn anything about Nairobi, besides how to lift better, allow yourself the audacity to dream and never set your limits off on someone else’s journey. Surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams, who encourage your wildest ideas, who support your ambitions, and who bring out the very best in you. Laugh often and laugh loudly. Work hard and ask for help when you need it. 

Twelve years. Twelve years of dreaming,  working hard, setbacks and victories. Nairobi is the epitome of the patience it takes to make your dreams a reality. 

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