Labrador strong at powerlifting nationals

Alicia Elson
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Aaron Hopkins and Paul Mitchell of Makkovik turning heads; Hopkins breaks Canadian record

They may be new to the sport, but powerlifting training partners and team mates Aaron Hopkins, 17, and Paul Mitchell, 20, tore up the competition at this year’s Canadian Powerlifting Championships held in St. Catherines, Ont., from March 30-April 3.

Hosted by the Niagara Powerlifting Club, whose competitive motto is three lifts, nine attempts, zero excuses, the guys took on the challenge, taking home big wins and plenty of experience.


Powerhouses of Labrador

Originally from Makkovik, Nunatsiavut, the pair has been attending school in St. John’s. Mitchell attends post-secondary school and Hopkins is in his last year of high school.

In much of their free time, both can be found at the Reps Fitness and Conditioning gym in St. John’s, where they are deadlifting, squatting and bench pressing some serious weight with their coach and teammate, Tom Kean.

Hopkins started lifting weights in March of 2013 and Mitchell didn’t take long to get into the action with his friend.

“When he would come over to my house in St. John’s, he would always talk about his strength gains and his new PRs which is a personal record in powerlifting. So watching him get all those achievements and stuff like that it kind of made me want to get involved with the team. I asked Aaron if I could come in with him and Tom one day and I did and they welcomed me in,” Mitchell said.

Hopkins said their regimen in the gym consists of many squats, bench presses and dead lifts, putting in anywhere from two to three hours a day for two or three sessions a week, depending on their schedules and their coach’s routine training plan.

Soon after, they both brought it to the competitive level where they entered the Newfoundland and Labrador Powerlifting Championships, which qualified them to compete at the 2014 national championships in Ontario.

“I had my first meet last June, in St. Johns. That was my first provincial meet. I had my best record, a national record, then but it got beat,” Hopkins said.

Mitchell managed a 352-pound squat, 242-pound bench press, and 468-pound dead lift during his event.

Mitchell said his biggest strength in powerlifting is definitely the dead lifts.

“There’s a really big gap between my dead lift, weight and my squat weight. Personally, I just find it easier to picking a weight up off the floor then I do squatting down with it on my back.”

On March 29, Hopkins and Mitchell travelled to Ontario with Kean, their coach and teammate. They competed alongside hundreds of other competitive powerlifters from across Canada.


A record-breaking performance

On March 31, Hopkins debuted on the national level, used his classic powerlifting skills and training to break a national record for his weight and age category — sub junior, 18 years-and-under, 66 kilogram class — with a squat of 381 pounds on his 144-pound frame.

“I knew going into it, it was going to be the record,” Hopkins said confidently.

“You have to be confident that you’re going to get it. You can’t be questioning yourself if you can do it or not when you’re going in.

“You’re dealing with a lot of weight and stuff like that. You don’t want to question yourself, you want to be confident and know that you’re going to do it. All the hard work pays off.

“It feels pretty amazing, and definitely worth all of the hard work.”

With the winning performance, Hopkins has qualified for the world championships that will be taking place in South Africa later this year. However, for personal reasons, Hopkins is hoping to instead compete in the North American Powerlifting Championships taking place in the United States in July. 

“It was a really great time and an amazing experience and I am definitely looking forward to the next one,” he stated.


Optimistic for future

Competing on April 1, in the 83 kilogram junior class, ages 19-23 category, Mitchell said, despite some upsetting lifts during his event, he was optimistic for his future and plans to keep powerlifting in his life for many years to come.

“I missed lifts in both. I missed the 418 squat, I missed my 248 bench. I missed my first attempt at the 474-pound dead lift, so I had to go back and do that again and I got it.

“I didn’t hit the numbers I was hoping to hit. But I mean, what can you do? I will just take it as a learning experience. You get some, you lose some. I didn't get all my lifts and maybe that's what it took to improve myself in the sport of powerlifting,” Mitchell said Tuesday, April 1.

“The problem with my 418-pound squat was that I came down too fast so when I go back to train I will improve and control my descent work on controlling the move.”

Mitchell did, however, meet a personal record for himself during the squat session.

“In my last competition I had a 352-pound squat and this one I had a 391-pound squat so that’s something I can be proud of, but there’s still a bit of improvement that I can do.”

Overall the Makkovik residents say they learned a lot of important information and life lessons from the event, including the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

“I learned not to be so stressed and relax and enjoy the moment,” said Hopkins. “It was just a great experience. It all came so fast so I can’t really put it in to words.”

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