COLUMN: I love the way you lift

Will Johnson competed in his second Olympic weightlifting competition this weekend.

Will Johnson competed in the second Power By You Classic this weekend. He successfully snatched 135 pounds and clean and jerked 185 pounds

I’m still sore.

This past weekend I competed in the second annual Power By You Classic, a weightlifting competition that attracted athletes from around the province, and somehow I came out with a gold medal in my weight class snatching 135 pounds and clean and jerking 185, a personal record.

Having been strong-armed into participating by my colleague Tyler Harper, who was planning to cover the event, I’d spent the past two months practicing (over and over and over again) the body movements involved in wrenching the barbell off the ground and hoisting it overhead.

It’s more complicated than it looks.

If you watch local firefighter Leo Grypma, who ultimately clean and jerked 305 pounds on Saturday, you’d be forgiven for feeling like you could never replicate his nostril-flaring prowess. To quote Fight Club, the guy looks like he’s carved out of wood, while I routinely feel like I’m carved from a wad of cookie dough.

The dude is my primary source of bicep envy, and along with owner Ali Popoff and trainer Katya Campbell, he’s responsible for cultivating my newfound skill set.

But really, when I try to explain to people why/how I got into Olympic lifting and what I get out of it, it has a lot less to do with the physical aspect of the sport and more to do with A) keeping on top of my mental health and B) being part of an encouragement-heavy community. CrossFit started out as an alternative to swimming while the pool was being renovated, but now it’s become a pseudo-religion.

The crowd getting into this scene is impossible to classify: you’ve got mother and daughter duos like Ronnie Maclean and Kelsey O’Connor, half the staff of the Nelson Police Department (Chief Paul Burkart just joined!), high school athletes like Jaydon Wouters and nerds like our sports reporter. Looking around the room during the competition, I would say the gender split was pretty near 50-50.

And the positive vibes are everywhere. I was moved to see this Facebook post from my fellow lifter Rebecca Gosney, who was kind enough to film my performance from the front row so I could post the videos on Facebook. Earlier in the day she’d confessed the thought of competing in front of an audience mortified her.

“Six months ago I joined Power By You,” she wrote on Facebook after the meet. “I could barely get up off the floor to do a burpee, struggled with every move and had zero confidence. Yesterday I challenged so many fears I have about being a woman.”

She itemized those fears: “put in a weight class, having strength and being judged on those things in front of a crowd.”

But in front of a tiny Front St. gym thick-packed with spectators and with three judges surrounding her, Gosney successfully completed all six of her lifts snatching 70 pounds and clean and jerking nearly 100. As she dropped the bar back down, the room erupted into enthusiastic applause.

I know exactly how she felt as she walked away triumphant.

“Still a long way to go,” Gosney wrote, “but as these amazing coaches would say: ‘You’ve got this.’”

 

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