WELLINGTON COUNTY – Six local weightlifting athletes have qualified for the 2024 Ontario Winter Games in Thunder Bay, Feb. 16 to 26.
The athletes are:
- Graeme May from Wellington Heights District Secondary School;
- Jahala May from Arthur Public School;
- Paige Sinclair from Norwell District Secondary School;
- Tyler Cox from Elora Public School;
- Zoe McKay from William C. Winegard Public School; and
- Ava Alexander from Listowel District Secondary School.
These students, along with Ryan Eady and Meaghan Ariss-Leitch from Centre Wellington District High School (CWDHS), all competed on Dec. 9 at the Ontario Youth/Junior Weightlifting Championships at Variety Village in Toronto.
Graeme May, 15, has been involved in the sport of weightlifting for about three years now.
Asked how he got started, he told the Advertiser “it was literally just candy.” He explained his coach, a family friend, told Graeme he would give him some candy if he did some squats.
This was all while his 12-year-old sister, Jahala, had already started weightlifting.
“From then on I just joined in because it was enjoyable,” said Graeme.
Jahala began her weightlifting journey at the age of seven by practicing her form with a broom stick.
“There was an older female role model in the gym before I started and after watching her, I decided that I wanted to try it out,” she said.
“I thought it was really cool that a girl that was just barely taller than me, just barely bigger than me was lifting weights so heavy. That was very impressive to me.”
Both weightlifters practice at the Maximus Barbell Club in Elora – they also have a home gym.
On average, the siblings practice five days a week and a minimum of three depending on their training cycle.
With his three years practicing and training hard, Graeme’s current record in weightlifting is 55 kilograms in snatch and 70 in clean and jerk in competition.
Jahala has a personal record of 47 in snatch and 58 in clean and jerk in competition.
At the Weightlifting Championships, Graeme ranked third provincially in his age and weight class, and Jahala got silver – this resulted in them qualifying for the winter games in a couple of months.
Overall, Graeme and Jahala say they do not necessarily compete with others, but with themselves and to create new personal records.
“That’s the entire purpose,” said Graeme.
“If I can be one or two kilos better by the end of two years from now, that’s an improvement.”
A 15-year-old student at Norwell District Secondary School, Sinclair began her weightlifting journey last July.
“I was going to the gym [with my mom] a couple times a week. In the summer they have a program at the gym, New You in Listowel, so I went there and enjoyed lifting,” said Sinclair.
The coach at New You noticed Sinclair and suggested the idea of weightlifting to her.
“Then I just started and I love it,” she said.
For a first-time competitor, Sinclair finished strong in the Dec. 9 Weightlifting Championships, winning a silver medal in the youth division and gold in the junior division.
“I was like, really nervous because it [was] my first competition with people actually my age,” said Sinclair.
She told the Advertiser the snatch was the first lift, followed by the clean and jerk once everyone had gone through.
Sinclair’s personal record in snatch is 42 kilograms and in clean and jerk it is 52. She said she has put in a lot of work since starting in July and trains about twice a week, either at her trainer’s place or at Lift Barbell Club in Guelph.
With the winter games coming up, Sinclair said she is “feeling very stressed.” However, she is also a broom ball player and may sit out for this year.
“There’s always next year,” she stated.
To find out more about the winter games, visit thunderbay.ca.
Ryan Eady, 17, attends CWDHS and is new to the sport of weightlifting, joining just a few months ago.
He got involved in the sport when his coach, Belinda Cox, was his wrestling coach at the school.
“I heard from a couple of my friends … and she also told me at wrestling practice that she [was] going to start up a weightlifting club,” said Eady.
“I enjoy pushing myself and [Cox] is just a phenomenal coach all around so I figured [weightlifting] would be a good time.”
Cox, a former Olympic athlete, told the Advertiser in an email that this is her first year coaching weightlifting at CWDHS and their club, Better Tomorrow Barbell Club, is a new member of the Ontario Weightlifting Association.
Eady practices about two days a week in the morning before school and said quite a few others in the school have been participating as well.
The high school student was another local participant in the Dec. 9 Weightlifting Championships.
“I placed second in my weight class, which was 73 kilograms,” he said.
“I was just shocked by how chill it was, I thought it was going to be really, really intense. It was really well done and very kind of relaxed, and everyone was very positive.”
Lifting only one or two kilos heavier than third place to get his silver medal, Eady said he forgot that it was a provincial competition, so he was “pretty pleased” with the outcome.
“I feel very fortunate,” he added.
Eady comes from a family that is heavily involved in rugby, which requires some strength training and exercise, but Olympic lifting is not something he has experienced before.
Lifting is now something that Eady says he enjoys and it is “a good time.”
“I think that the personal growth and the confidence part that comes with [weightlifting] – every day you can see how much effort you put in is how much you’re going to gain from it,” he explained.
“I would just strongly encourage people to push themselves physically, because I think it’s really good, not only for your body, but just again, for your mental health because you feel very confident and you get those endorphins.
“It just really brightens my day.”