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This article was published 19/10/2020 (456 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Southport, Man. — It was one of the last major sporting events in Manitoba before face masks and social distancing became the norm.
The Canadian National Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships, featuring more than 420 of the country’s top weightlifters, took place in Winnipeg March 3-7 at the Victoria Inn.
Four days after everyone finished their squats, deadlifts and bench presses, the NBA suspended its season owing to COVID-19 concerns and the rest of the sports world quickly followed suit.
"It was actually really cool because that was the last powerlifting meet in Canada for four or five months there. It was a huge relief because the whole organization... we would’ve been in a lot of trouble both financially and logistically and out a lot of money and been in a lot of trouble," said Manitoba Powerlifting Association president Mathew Bowen.
"We were very, very fortunate we were able to run the national event two weeks before the world shut down... We knew (COVID-19) was coming. We were paying attention to the news because we didn’t have to postpone everything. There were already restrictions happening in B.C. and travel restrictions were starting overseas. We were paying attention to it, but we didn’t know the impact that it would have."
Luckily for Bowen and the rest of the local powerlifting community, COVID hasn’t stopped them from competing. This weekend the MPA held its provincial championships in Southport, south of Portage la Prairie, at the Central Plains Rec Plex, featuring lifters between the ages of 14-70. The MPA previously held an event in August, which was the first powerlifting competition in Canada since the nationals, at Movement Fitness and Performance in Winnipeg.
It went off without a hitch, leading to the organization feeling comfortable hosting provincials.
The provincial championships do, however, look quite a bit different from a normal year. The entire event, including athletes, coaches and volunteers, is restricted to 50 people. The masters (age 40+) hit the platform Saturday and the juniors (ages 19-23) and sub-juniors (ages 14-18) battled it out Sunday. The open category will take place in November in Selkirk barring any government rule changes. Masks were mandatory for everyone involved on the weekend. With Winnipeg in code orange, the event was moved to Portage la Prairie. Nationals are set for May in Newfoundland.
"There are people with kids or immunocompromised people who won’t come," Bowen said.
"Basically our attitiude has been we’re going to host the event if the government lets us. You can come if you want to. We have refs that don’t want to come, we have athletes that don’t want to come, we have volunteers that don’t want to come for their own personal reasons. There’s no pressure to show up. That’s been our stance on this. We just want to be able to hold competitions under the Manitoba guidelines if we can."
To prepare for this year’s provincials, lifters had to get creative during the early stages of the pandemic in order to stay sharp.
"During the pandemic, my coach, myself and a few other people chipped in to buy a bunch of equipment and we trained inside my coach’s house and made it work that way," said 22-year-old Winnipegger Jared McIntyre who won gold in the 74-kg weight class on Sunday.
"So we overcame a lot of things during the pandemic. We’re really passionate about playing the sport. It’s something we always made time for. It kind of kept us sane because a lot of people that do usually work out, not just powerlifters, were going crazy with no equipment and gym and all that stuff. I think it’s really good for everyone’s mental health especially during times like this."
Taylor Armstrong, a 17-year-old from Dauphin who captured gold in 47-kg category, got into the sport right before the pandemic. She said with the precautions in place, she felt safe competing and that athletes like herself are just happy to have the chance to do so.
"It kind of held me together and made the pandemic a lot more bearable as I had my outlet," said Armstrong on having something to train for the past few months.
Bowen said overall the interest level has been high in their events. He believes it’s one of the safer sports out there.
"I always say ‘Would you rather be in a well-mainted environment or a Wal-Mart?’ We’ve minimized contact... We’re not getting close to eachother if we need to... I think it’s safer to be here than to be in a public place like Wal-Mart or anywhere really," said Bowen.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.