During Saturday’s Power By You Classic, the first-ever Olympic lifting competition held locally, three Nelson athletes qualified for provincial championships: Bobbi Barbarich, Kaila Kaufmann and Leo Grypma.
Meanwhile the other 30 male and female participants—who came from a variety of different age and weight categories— strutted their stuff before a packed gymnasium full of enthusiastic spectators.
“This competition definitely by far exceeded my expectations,” organizer Ali Popoff told the Star. She’s been working for years to host a local meet. “A lot of our beginner lifters made all six lifts and that’s a huge accomplishment.”
Over the course of the day each athlete performed six lifts—three snatches, and three clean and jerks. And for many participants it was their first time lifting in front of an audience.
“This was my first competition,” said Barbarich, who formerly competed on Team Canada’s roller derby team. “Going through the snatches was nerve-wracking—I’ve never been in that scenario before—and the weights were supposed to be completely familiar, but somehow it just feels different, which is unnerving.”
She snatched 130 pounds, then clean and jerked 181.
“Once you get to that third lift you’ve got it figured.”
Local firefighter Grympa, who was also coaching that day, has been training for four years now. He gave one of this best performances to date on Saturday, besting his personal record on his snatch and narrowly missed it in his clean and jerk, dumping the bar at the last moment.
“Hopefully this gives people an idea of what we do and the passion we have for Olympic lifting,” he said. “It’s been a great experience, the public turnout has been amazing, and Ali’s done an amazing job of putting this all together.”
Grypma snatched 225 pounds, then clean and jerked 290.
Kaufmann was thrilled with her performance.
“What a great experience and opportunity for athletes and coaches! An event like this builds community support and gives us a chance to show our dedication to the sport of weightlifting and CrossFit,” she said.
She snatched 121 pounds and clean and jerked 156.
Popoff hopes this meet will help raise lifting’s profile in the area, and will demonstrate the benefits of the sport.
“Some people think lifting is like bodybuilding, but it’s so far from that. It’s appropriate for anyone who wants to lose weight, participate in a competitive sport and increase their mobility and flexibility,” said Popoff.
One of her athletes, Jaydon Wouters, recently turned 16.
“This was Jaydon’s second time doing an Olympic lifting competition, and the way he presented himself out there was a huge representation of how we’ve been coaching him. He was calm, cool and collected. His head was in the game,” she said.
“Every time he was about to go up he said ‘I’m going to get this’ and I said ‘yes, you are’.”
Both of them were correct, as Wouters ultimately completed a number of successful lifts. He snatched 123.5 pounds and clean and jerked 165.
“It was such an awesome day,” said Wouters. “I was amazed by how big of a success the competition was. A huge thanks to Ali and Leo for all of the help and support that they have given me. I was really happy to reach some of my personal goals this weekend.”
And he wasn’t the only one giving it his all.
“A big piece of this for me was showing how seriously we all take this sport,” said Popoff. “Everyone showed up and gave it their all. Everybody has a newfound respect for what we have to accomplish. I can’t say how proud I am of everyone involved in the event—the coaches, the spectators, the volunteers, my parents.”
And the event will be bigger and better next year.
“This is just the beginning,” she said.
Star reporter Will Johnson participated in the competition and will write a column about his experience.