The World Championship rolled into town in Evansville this year, and with it came the sport’s finest competitors from across the globe.
A thousand chairs faced the stage that was decorated by the flags from the Nations the athletes came to honor. In the middle of the crowd video cameras were set up taping the event. Off to the sides were the warm up areas for the lifters to get ready for action. Earlier that day I woke up at 6:30am and weighed-in at the same room. It was empty. Now it was full of life, and I was full of adrenaline.
We started off in the Squats, and right away the defending World Champion from England, Andy Bonner, took the lead with a 440 pound squat. National Champions from the USA (Caleb Wallace and Gregg Zweig) and Australia (Rhys Archer) helped round out the top 5 after the squat event with me being the Canadian Champion coming in 4th.
With the first event complete, I was in 4th place, and already in a better position than I would have predicted when I got up that morning. Next up was the bench press and I was fairly certain that was going to be my strongest event (pun intended).
The bench press event was were I would gain my ground. Before the event started the defending World Champion, Andy Bonner from England, approached me and said this event would be contested between me and Gregg Zweig from the USA. He said we looked to be the most powerful benchers in the 181 pound weight class.
I was flattered that the defending World Champion, and World record holder would even notice I might be a threat, let alone he was pegging me to be a favorite in the second event. It also served warning that Gregg of the US was someone to look out for.
As it turned out, the defending Champion was a seasoned vet who wisely had me naively thinking he was not someone to worry about in this event. He was trying to take my focus off of him and on the American Champion. If he thought he was going to fly under the radar and slip by me, he was wrong. I already knew what he was capable of in the bench press.
Bonner layed down on the bench and the room fell silent. All eyes were on the Champion as he was attempting to hold of the charge of the young Canadian Champion. I sat in my chair waiting to see if he could keep up on the bench with me. He was given the signal to start and he lowered the bar on his chest waiting the press signal. “Press!” the ref yelled and Bonner pushed with everything his body had. The weight raised off his chest slowly, and his arms shook like leaves in the wind. For a few dramatic seconds it seemed as though the weight would be too much for him to bear. Shaky and unsure, he pressed the weight until his arms were completely streched out, and he had completed the press. He matched my bench, just barely.
After the impressive benching display I was in second place overall. Bonner was in the lead with Gregg Zweig and Cody Wallace of USA in 3rd and 4th respectively, and Rhys Archer of Australia in 5th. But the deadlift event was next, and it was by far my worst event of the 3. I had never deadlifted before this year, and was a rookie with the lift. I made it to the World Championships on the strength of my squat and bench press. I was sure to loose much of the ground I gained. I knew I was going to dead much less than the competition, but the plan was to dead enough to not fall too far behind in the rankings. Technically my deadlift was very off. I just muscled the weight up, while my competition used proper leverage and was able to lift more.
The deadlifts kicked off and my first attempt was conservative. I didn’t want to bomb out of the event. For the most part the rest of the feild also had conservative openers for the deadlifts. It was in the second round of attempts that I began to drastically fall behind. Bonner, Wallace, Zweig all moved ahead of me, which was expected. But on top of that Travis Morrison, Nathan Dewigg and John Clow all deadlifted more than me and advanced ahead of me in the rankings. By the time people were giving their third attempts in the event my lack of experience with the lift was showing.
American Champions Caleb Wallace and Gregg Zweig put on a great display of deadlifting, while Travis Morrison and Rhys Archer closed the gap on me. I was falling behind rapidly, and was in danger of not reaching my goal of finishing in the top ten. From second in the feild to not even a top ten finish, all because I was far too new to the deadlift to keep up. I have to admit, I knew ahead of time I was going to struggle in the final event.
Andy Bonner, to no one’s suprise, pulled off the biggest deadlift of the day with 583 pounds and was comfortably ahead of the rest of the pack. With his last lift he yelled out “Still the daddy!” as at 53 years old he had taken the rest of us to school once again. He truely is the Randy Couture/George Foreman of powerlifting.
While he was comfortably taking 1st, I was fighting to stay relevant. It came down to my last deadlift, and I needed to pull off something big to stay in the rankings. It may not be big compared to Bonner or the American Champions, but it would be the biggest deadlift I would ever pull. It would be more weight than I had ever deadlifted, and I would have only one shot in getting it off or I would fall behind Australia’s Rhys Archer (who was breathing down my neck all competition it was so close).
With the bar loaded, and the Canadians cheering me on, I took to the platform and grabbed the bar. By this time I was fighting for 4th place. If I nailed this deadlift I would take it. It would be much higher than I had hope to achieve. You know when you watch a movie and there is a scene when the crowd gets silent and all you can hear is the lead character’s heart beating? Now I know how it feels…
It was my final lift, and the heaviest of my day, and the heaviest of my life. And it was everything I needed it to be. With the weight in hand I stood up with it and could see my family and friends cheer as I had lifted my way to a new personal best.
In the end Andy Bonner took 1st again, Gregg Zweig took 2nd, Caleb Wallace 3rd, 6 Pack 4th, and Rhys Archer in 5th. That was the top 5 in the World Championships of 2008. I got my plaque and left with a smile on my face. It was my first year in the sport, and I think the future looks very bright for this chap 😉