Westisle’s Justin Smith competing in world powerlifting championships
By Jim Brown
At just 17 Justin Smith is ready to make a big splash in Szczyrk, Poland. The Grade 12 Westisle Composite student is travelling there at the end of August to compete in the world championships for powerlifters (14-18).
The son of Lana and Wesley Smith, of Mount Pleasant, stands atop many broad shoulders since Westisle has established a national reputation in competitive powerlifting ranks, with male teams routinely claiming provincial championships and performing well at nationals.
Mr Smith was a double gold medalist in Calgary at the Canadian Power Lifting Championships (April 11-14) and also claimed the Champion of Champions Award for besting all juniors in the event.
However the world championships represents another big step up the ladder.
And there’s a good chance he will be a little lighter than he was at the nationals - hoping to drop his weight by one kilogram (kg) to the 59 kg division, which he believes will give him a better chance of winning.
As part of his reward for winning a ticket to the worlds, Mr Smith will need help from the community raising approximately $2,000 to cover air fare, accommodations and other expenses.
“We get no funding whatsoever, we just go basically to local businesses and door to door,” said Mr Smith, who is confident about reaching that target.
At the national championships in Calgary he was crowned champion in the sub-junior and junior categories.
“I won the...unequipped, sub junior, junior title. They unified the sub junior and junior awards this year,” he said.
That means Mr Smith competed in a group that ranged from 14 to 23 years old.
Mr Smith’s accomplishments are all the more remarkable because he had only taken up the sport seriously in Grade 10.
“It was just a sport that a few friends and I fell into.”
As for getting his ticket punched for Poland, Mr Smith described the experience as “surreal.”
Last year he also earned a berth in the world championships, accompanied by another Westisle powerlifter, Tyler Ramsay. But that was in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
“That was an hour or so flight longer than it took to get to Calgary (for nationals). This (Poland) will be the longest plane ride I’ve ever flown on,” he said.
There are many things Mr Smith loves about the sport and one of the biggest is that it rewards discipline, commitment and sacrifice.
He was also surprised at how little time it can take to become stronger, providing the right training routine is followed.
“As long as you do things the right way and keep your form correct, and your technique,” said the Westisle athlete.
Competitive powerlifters have to keep a wary eye on their nutrition and on other lifestyle choices, said Mr Smith.
“I stopped playing other sports, such as basketball and track and field. It was more or less the fear of getting hurt and rolling my ankle. I really only focused on doing weight training.”
His last significant injuries were two years ago, in Grade 10, but since he focused on maintaining the proper form, he’s managed to keep the injury bug at bay.
“I haven’t had any major injuries,” said Mr Smith, who is supported during many lifts with a powerlifting suit.
The Grade 12 Westisle powerlifter isn’t exactly a behemoth in his appearance - weighing all of 135 pounds at the nationals and standing no taller than 5’5”. But those statistics don’t begin to tell the full story.
At this month’s nationals, for instance, Mr Smith squatted 227.5 kgs, which is 502 pounds, while his bench press was 115 kg, or 253 pounds.
Mr Smith has been helped throughout his high school powerlifting years by the school’s powerlifting coach - George Kinch.
“He’s been my head coach for the three years I’ve been a powerlifter so far. It’s phenomenal (Mr Kinch’s record of success), just looking at the wall and seeing his track record. He’s won every provincial championship (over the past five years) except for one.
“This year, for the first time ever, we’ve won the male and female (provincial) championships. They say you’re only as good as your coach.”
Now that Mr Smith is off to the worlds he will need to make adjustments to his training schedule. He plans to contact Canada’s national wrestling coach for suggestions on to prepare his training program for worlds and then get Mr Kinch’s opinion on the suggestions.
Currently Mr Smith trains a couple of hours a day for three or four days a week, as many as 10 hours or more a week when training is stepped up.
Powerlifting involves three components - the squat, the bench press and the dead lifts.
The weight successfully hoisted in all three events is then combined for the competitor’s total score. But that isn’t the whole story, since a complicated formula, called the Wilks Points system, must also be factored in. That’s based on total weight lifted, divided by body weight.
Next year, after graduating, Mr Smith plans to continue his ascendency in the power lifting ranks, competing in the junior division (ages 19-23).
“If I do win I will become one of the very few Canadians to ever win at the world championships.”