A Cree Weightlifter

A year ago today I competed in my first weightlifting competition, the OPF Open in Edmonton, AB. OPF stands for Olympic Power and Fitness and they are the club that I joined in early 2014. Stepping into that club literally changed my entire life, in the best way.

I’ll never forget that first day at the club. My good friend Lori-Lei had texted me and said we should go check out Olympic weightlifting, only a couple blocks from where I lived at the time. I remember almost telling her I couldn’t go, that I was too busy. Honestly, I had nothing planned and I was just terrified, terrified of meeting new people, and of trying something new. Although I had been playing sports since grade 9, I thought I was lanky, uncoordinated (as people constantly feel the need to remind me), and not naturally athletic. I thought I wouldn’t be able to weightlift.

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My first weightlifting meet, with my cheering squad in the top picture.

That first day the coach Kevin Z., who is the kindest, most wonderful coach ever, worked with me and introduced me to the two lifts – snatch and clean and jerk. In a weightlifting competition you get three attempts at each lift, and they take your best snatch and your best clean and jerk to make a total. The best total in each weightclass (generally) wins. Needless to say, learning the technique was (and still is) an intense learning curve.

Four months after joining the club I was done University and moved out of the city and back to the country. It didn’t take me long to invest in a weightlifting bar and some weights, because I was addicted to the sport. Eventually I built my own platform in the garage at home and have been training in there since.

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My garage training gym.

It took me over a year to enter in my first competition, the OPF Open which was on May 30, 2015. I was happy with how I did at the time (55kg snatch, 65kg clean and jerk). Since then I have competed in two more, the Gordon Kay Memorial in October 2015 and Alberta Provincials in December 2015. It has been challenging, both physically and mentally. The most difficult part is training on my own, without my coach and teammates from OPF. Watching my body change, and numbers go up has been so rewarding. I am so in awe sometimes of what my body is capable of and then sometimes I’m daunted my how much farther I have to grow (but also excited by it). I cannot wait to compete at nationals (first step is to qualify). I have so many goals, and I just take it day by day, and step by step, inching my way closer.

The best part of weightlifting has been the people. I have met so many wonderful people in this sport and they both inspire and encourage me. It has been fun to grow with fellow athletes. Although this is an individual sport, the support from my teammates has been tremendously beneficial to my improvement and I am forever grateful for the community that exists in weightlifting.

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So far I haven’t met any other Aboriginal Olympic weightlifters in Canada. I plan on getting certified to coach soon and one of my goals to to get more First Nations kids introduced and into weightlifting. I didn’t even know that weightlifting existed until that January that I stepped into the club. The benefits of it are amazing and it has transformed me into someone who is so much more confident and sure. I sometimes view my life as “before weightlifting” and “after weightlifting”. I just see it as such a bright point in my lift. I have young girls coming up to me and telling me how they’d never be able to be as strong as me or do what I do but how much they want to and I just want to shake them and scream at them that they CAN, that they can do anything they want. I was lucky enough to find a coach who is helping me realize my potential, I hope to one day to that for someone else. Weightlifting is now a part of my identity.

If you want to follow me on my weightlifting journey, you can follow my instagram http://instagram.com/claudine_bull to see updates. I frequently post clips from my training.

 

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