The ‘weight’ is almost over for the world’s leading para powerlifters
This month’s 2021 Para Powerlifting World Cup is the first event of its kind to be held in the UK since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. We caught up with the TASS athletes looking to make their mark in Manchester.
Twelve months of pent-up frustration and soul-destroying self-isolation has left para athletes across the globe desperate to return to elite competition. And for powerlifters there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.
Later this month Manchester will host the Para Powerlifting World Cup. Doubling up as a qualifier for the rescheduled Tokyo Paralympic Games, the event runs from March 25-28 at Wythenshawe Forum and will be the first event of its kind to take place in the UK since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s a competition which I competed in last year and I can’t wait to compete in it again,” said Tom Smith, one of four TASS athletes selected to represent Great Britain.
“I think the main difference between this year and last year for me is the experience. This will be my second international competition so I’m hoping to use the experience from last year to help to fulfil my potential and push for success on the day.”
If gaining international glory isn’t enough, then the carrot of qualifying for the Paralympics adds extra spice to an event that can’t come soon enough for Rebecca Bedford.
“I’m really excited to get back to elite competition after over a year out due to the pandemic,” said another of GB’s TASS talents. “It will be nice to get back into that competitive atmosphere and show off what I’ve been able to achieve during the past 12 months.
“I know that being at this competition under Covid restrictions is going to be different than anything I’ve experienced before — even with eight years of international competition experience under my belt!
“However, we have a really good team spirit so I’m sure that will still come across despite the fact that we’ve had to stay isolated in our own rooms for the majority of the last year.”
Emerging from isolation is almost as significant as the competition itself for many of the athletes heading to Manchester later this month.
And there’s no escaping the fact that months spent shielded from the outside world, without any prospect of group training or competition, has taken its toll physically and mentally on GB’s para powerlifters.
“As soon as Covid hit my training came to an abrupt halt, gyms were closed and I was stuck at home with a few dumbbells and resistance bands,” explained Charlotte McGuinness, the third of four TASS athletes competing at the World Cup.
“However, during the first month I was able to get myself a bar, a para powerlifting bench and weighted plates. That meant I could train at home without Covid getting in the way.
“Even so, motivation has been low during lockdown as you do train on your own. I’m training in an old barn so the temperatures can be pretty extreme. On cold days you have to really push yourself to get going but once I start I have a urge to train as hard as possible so I can achieve my goals.
“As soon as lockdown hit I knew I had to act. I had an urge to not let the virus stop me from training and I used that as a massive motivational source.”
Tom has also chosen to focus on the positives in the build-up to the World Cup and looks back on the last year as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
“The last 12 months have been more of a learning curve than a struggle,” he insisted. “The pandemic has taught me that a lot can be thrown at you in such a short period of time and it’s your responsibility to be able to adapt to the surroundings and to what’s going on.
“It also brought home the benefit of having a back-up plan for if something doesn’t go to plan.
“In Para Powerlifting not all lifts in a competition go in your favour and it’s the way that you adapt and adjust to these setbacks that matters most.
“The same can be said for everyday life. The pandemic has really reinforced that view.”
Tom, Rebecca and Charlotte will be joined by fellow TASS athlete Mark Swan at the Para Powerlifting World Cup.
And once again the GB squad will showcase the very best in established and emerging talent as the countdown to Tokyo 2021 gathers pace.
“The successive lockdowns have actually allowed me to become even more focused on Powerlifting as I had no other commitments eating into my time,” added Rebecca.
“If anything, the last year has shown me what can be achieved if you work really hard at one thing.
“My current training programme should take me where I need to be physically just in time for the World Cup. Mentally, I’m ready for the challenge.”
Charlotte is similarly focused as she chases a new personal best and a target of 80kg in Manchester. “Mentally I’m 100% prepared for Manchester,” she added.
“I’m counting down the days. I want to show how I haven’t let the lockdown stop me train and to show just how far I’ve progressed.”
For all the latest on the 2021 Para Powerlifting World Cup visit www.britishweightlifting.org
Photo on menu page courtesy of SWpix