Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Taking on the world

George, Power-George at world powerlifting championship

The Beacon

PUSH – Gander’s Christa Power-George placed 16th overall in her weight class at the IPF Women’s Powerlifting World Championships in Austria from Oct. 14-20.Gander's husband and wife powerlifting duo, Christa Power-George and Brian George, are no strangers to the provincial, national and international powerlifting scene, however it was a new experience for both last month.

The two local powerlifters experienced the world powerlifting scene for the first time, and they are hoping it will not be the last time the world can see them at the IPF Men's and Women's Powerlifting World Championships.

The duo, who were selected to attend the world championship last year but we're unable to attend, were on the 15-member Canadian team who traveled to Soeldon, Austria to compete from Oct. 14-20, as a result of Power-George winning the national women's championship for the second consecutive year in 2007. George qualified for the world event by taking a bronze at the men's national competition - his third in as many years.

At the worlds, Power-George had a 16th place overall finish out of the 18 competitors in the 123-pound weight class. She came 16th in squat with a lift of 281.1 lbs, 18th in bench press with 144-pound, and 16th in dead lift with 281.1 pounds.

"I pulled my shoulder a couple weeks before, so I have done better, but it was the best I had that day," said Power-George.

Meanwhile, George landed in 14th place overall in the 19-competitor 243-pound weight class, placing 13th with personal best squat of 673 pounds, 17th in the bench press event with 440 pounds, and 15th dead lift with 650 pounds.

George's lifts were affected by the high altitude of Austria, which neither lifter was used to.

"Usually I'm a good dead lifter, probably a top five dead lifter in Canada," George said. "From the altitude, I started getting cramps in my neck and shoulder, so my second and third dead lifts were no lifts because of the severe cramping."

Both athletes said they went to the world championships with an open mind.

"Not that we didn't take it seriously, but we weren't that stressed over it, because it was worlds, and the best in the world is a pretty big title to hold, and as long as we were trying our best, that was really what we expected," said Power-George.

"We enjoyed ourselves and approached it with a good attitude. If it had been in Canada, we would have been stressed. We would have been gunning to win to make it to the worlds, but where you have every country in the world, it's the best of the best that make it to the team, so chances of being the best in the world might take more than your first time. Those who win are there for like five, six, seven, 11 years before they get a medal. So we're coming in just kind of hoping some day we'll get up the ladder and win."


Both competitors said there were many challenges they weren't used to at the world event.

"It was really quickly changing from one person to the next," Power-George said. "That's what we found to be the hardest thing about it - how quick it was and how hard it was to recover in between. You had less time, plus you couldn't breath because of the altitude, so it was even harder again. That was by far the biggest challenge I think."

George added the air was thin being 5,000-feet above sea level, which was definitely a challenge, as was the language barrier and the congestion with such a large number of competitions.

"We definitely weren't intimidated," George said, adding there was close to 300 lifters.

George said he found the refereeing to be a bit inconsistent.

"The bigger lifters got more favouritism than the lifters lifting smaller weight," he said. "They were a little bit more sticky with us. There was a little bit of politics, but it's the best in the world. Europeans are genetically strong, not saying that Canadians aren't, but it seems to be that we need to train a bit harder to get to their level."


The duo trained for 12 weeks before the world event, with the first six weeks consisting of high volume work, including more sets and reps with less weight and faster movements.

In the last six weeks, the weight went higher and the amount of reps to gain power.

"There is a lot of intensive training," said Power-George. "A lot of sacrifices - early nights and no weekends."

George said he enjoys training, being able to go to the gym and have goals instead of just going to lift weights.

"We are both very goal-oriented," said George. "It's tough towards the end. You're tired and you're not supposed to lift too much because you don't want to overtrain to the point where your lifts are going to drop. If you get to that point then sometimes it's too late."

Power-George added there is a fine balance between training and over-training, and her husband, who is also her trainer, has a tremendous amount of knowledge of how to train.

"He's always coming up with new programs," she said. "Every one is harder than the last. He is always making it tougher and tougher, and that's why we are excelling."

Power-George said other athletes have a huge advantage going in to the world championship, because some lifters from other countries are paid to be powerlifters.

"That's their job," she said. "They are paid to train, they are selected to win medals. They are given a house, they are given cars, they are given food, their family is taken care of, and long as they go win that gold medal that continues on.

"It's a big incentive for them to train, and they have the means to do it. If you could just eat, sleep and train, you would be the best in the world. Anybody could. For the rest of us who have normal lives and normal jobs, and families and kids, it's a little less of an advantage. This is just something we do extra."

Learning experience

Power-George said they learned techniques from watching other lifters that they can incorporate into their own strategy.

"We learned a tremendous amount from going, and that gives us a little bit more of an edge up," she said. "When we go to nationals this year, we've learned so much that we can incorporate that hopefully guarantees us a spot next year on the world team, which is in Newfoundland.

"You we're lucky if you finished. That's how hard it was."

George added six out of the 15 Team Canada members did not finish the event.

"We took it easy on ourselves and we were nervous and just getting a lot of training advice," George said.

"By the time we left, we knew half the people there. We made some good connections from world-class athletes. They shared a lot of good tips."


George said himself and 9 Wing Gander have done research, and he believes he is the first military member in Canadian military history to go to powerlifting worlds.

"The base is behind me 100 per cent," said George.

They duo said they get a lot of support from 9 Wing Gander and the community of Gander as a whole.

"I had a huge fund-raiser before we left and the amount of support and interest from everybody in the town was phenomenal," Power-George said.

She put together a basket with over $1,000 of items from different business within the community, and sold enough tickets on it to buy her plane ticket.

"It was amazing," she said. "The town really supports us when we go."


Now it's break time for the couple, so Power-George's torn muscle can heal.

"When she gets a good shoulder it's only a matter of time before people recognize her on the world scene," George said of his wife.

The duo has some time before they have to start training for the Canadian Powerlifting Championships, which take place in April in Niagara Falls, Ont.

"We have some time before we have to get serious with that," Power-George said.

"We are really hoping to make the world team, and that depends on what you do in nationals. We have to start training hard after Christmas to guarantee next year's worlds, because, of course, being from Newfoundland, that's ideal. Your families can come so those are our long-term goals to make that team."

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