Nanaimo weightlifters are continuing to raise the bar for themselves.
A contingent from the Hercules Weightlifting Club won six medals and captured the team title at the A&R Memorial Weightlifting Championships last month at Port Alberni.
The Hercules club started raising its profile just over a year ago. It had been operating informally out of a garage, then made the move to partner with Nanaimo Crossfit at the Boxwood Road gym.
Coach Raf Korkowski hadn’t been involved in the competitive side of the sport for 10 years, but then his parents retired to Vancouver Island and having his dad and lifelong coach Mirek around again renewed Raf’s passion for Olympic weightlifting.
“Now that the club is here and it’s going so well, it’s sucked me right back 100 per cent training again,” Raf Korkowski said. “It’s like I’m back in my career 10 years ago. It’s fun.”
At the Alberni event, Korkowski won gold and set a Canadian masters record in the snatch of 143 kilograms (315 pounds), qualifying him for nationals.
Among the other Hercules medallists was Quinlan Jager.
Jager first took up the sport last year. Weight training had made him curious about Olympic weightlifting, so he checked out some YouTube videos.
“It just looked so fun and technical and fluid and graceful,” he said.
He tried it out through Nanaimo Crossfit, and when the Hercules club formed, he signed on right away, ended up making provincials his first year, and continues to set new goals in the sport.
“I think people underestimate the speed portion of it, the technical portion,” said Jager. “A lot of people see it, they think it’s muscle … It’s almost like gymnastics, but with weights.”
Korkowski said there’s a steep learning curve to Olympic weightlifting.
“It’s easy to learn, but it’s hard to learn well,” he said. “It’s got a lot of elements of speed, strength, flexibility, proper biomechanics, sports psychology.”
Korkowski said the club’s goal is to maximize athletes’ successful attempts.
“We’re focusing on progression, progression, so that every single time they do have competitions, they can have personal bests,” he said.
That was the case in Alberni, as all the Hercules medallists recorded personal bests. Zeyad El Karsh earned a silver medal and qualified for nationals after his 121kg snatch and 159kg clean and jerk, while Brenda Fergusson set a Canadian masters record in her 70-74 age group with a 29kg snatch and 40kg clean and jerk. Nikki Lenzen and Dallyn Giroux also medalled.
Korkowski said men and women of all ages and abilities are encouraged to join the not-for-profit Hercules club. Weightlifting is rewarding, Jager said.
“It’s an incredible feeling to pick up a weight that you would have trouble to squat or to even deadlift, and then you’re able to put it on your shoulders and over your head,” he said. “And it feels weightless when you do that, because you’ve got the adrenaline flowing through you. You feel literally like you’re the strongest person in the world.”