On Saturday, October 4, Team JustLift traveled up to North Bay for the 2014 Ray Hamilton Classic. The first major meet of our competitive season, athletes Ian Haya, Heather Amundrud, Val Hoang, James Jaehak-Kim, Justin Reeson, Sarah Rice, and Julia Boggia all put on impressive performances to further cement JustLift’s place a contender in the Ontario Weightlifting community.

The day began at 7:00am with the first round of weigh-ins. Ian Haya would be the first of our lifters to touch the bar, competing in the first session of the day. Ian, Ontario’s top ranked 62kg lifter, and number two in the country, opened with a confident first attempt in the Snatch at 93kg, more than any of his competitors’ successful attempts. Unmatched in this lift, Ian finished 7kg ahead of the next strongest competitor in his weight category with a final attempt of 97kg. In the Clean and Jerk, Ian and Coach Chin had a fight on their hands, as the local up-and-comer, Niki Alexandrov (son of former World Champion and World Record Holder, Alexander Varbanov) was holding his own, going toe-to-toe with Ian in his attempts. Both athletes would attempt a third Clean and Jerk at 125kg for a new provincial record. Ian, attempting the weight first, would make it through a hard Clean, but just didn’t quite have enough left to stabilize the Jerk. Shortly after, Niki would win the battle with a strong Clean followed by an equally strong Jerk, securing himself the record. Still, having gone into the Clean and Jerk with a 7kg lead, Ian would win the contest with by 2kg in the total. Our hats go off to Niki, though, who is on his way to becoming a force in the sport!

2014 Ray Hamilton Classic Medal Winners (Men's 62kg) L to R: Joel Asselin - 3rd, Ian Haya - 1st, Niki Alexandrov - 2nd

2014 Ray Hamilton Classic Medal Winners (Men’s 62kg) L to R: Joel Asselin – 3rd, Ian Haya – 1st, Niki Alexandrov – 2nd

Following the men of the lighter weight classes would be the women, with JustLift athletes Heather Amundrud and Val Hoang going into this competition as favorites for the top three. The first of the pair to lift, Heather opened with an easy 55kg Snatch, and followed this with an equally strong 57kg, a competition record for her! Heather would attempt 60kg, however, that bar proved just too heavy. In the Clean and Jerk round, Heather went 3/3, going 73, 76, and finishing with 80kg, another competition record! With a total of 137kg, Heather easily made the qualifying total for the Canadian Senior Championships.

Going into this meet, Val had a lot to prove. In our last competitive season, Val had just missed the qualifying total for the Canadian Senior Championships by a single lift. Off to a shaky start by missing her first attempt in the Snatch at 56kg, Val quickly pulled it together and came back with a vengeance, putting on her most confident performance to date. She would not miss a single attempt after the first, subsequently going 56-59kg in the Snatch, and then 74, 77, and 80kg in the Clean and Jerk. This would secure Val the gold, giving her a 2kg edge over Heather, but more importantly, a total that was 9kg above the qualifying standard for the Canadian Senior Championships!

2014 Ray Hamilton Classic Medal Winners (Women's 53kg) L to R: Heather Amundrud - 2nd, Val Hoang - 1st, Bronwynn Sheppard - 3rd

2014 Ray Hamilton Classic Medal Winners (Women’s 53kg) L to R: Heather Amundrud – 2nd, Val Hoang – 1st, Bronwynn Sheppard – 3rd

Next up were James Jaehak-Kim, and Justin Reeson, who were both competing in the 94kg class. This would only be James’ second competition, and Justin’s first. Opening at 80kg, James would receive three white lights on his first Snatch, setting the tone for the rest of his session. Confident, James posted another successful lift with 83kg. James would miss his third attempt at 86kg, just not quite receiving the bar in the right position. Undeterred by the miss, James followed up his Snatch attempts with three gutsy Clean and Jerks, finishing with 110kg, a competition record 1kg off his best in training!

Justin, although nervous about his first meet, overcame his anxieties, and put on a show. Justin opened with a very strong 93kg, pulling it so hard that he Power Snatched it! This was followed up with an even more powerful 98kg, and finally, with a personal best of 103kg. In the Clean and Jerk, Justin would receive successful judgment on his attempts at 125, 130, and 135kg, allowing him to go 6/6 at his very first meet! To top it off, Justin would be awarded with the Best Novice Lifter Award, given to the top lifter new to competition!

Coaches Ian Haya and Greg Chin accepting Justin Reeson's Best Novice Lifter award on his behalf.

Coaches Ian Haya and Greg Chin accepting Justin Reeson’s Best Novice Lifter award on his behalf.

The final round of the evening would see lifters Sarah Rice and Julia Boggia (69kg) put on their best performances to date! First up would be Sarah, opening at 52kg in the Snatch, then going 55, and 57kg, for a new personal record. She would follow this with an even stronger performance in the Clean and Jerk, going 63, 66, and 69kg for another personal record in the Clean and Jerk! What makes it all the more impressive is that prior to lifting she had already acted as an official in numerous capacities throughout the day!

Following close after Sarah was Julia, who, at this meet, would be attempting to qualify for the Ontario Provincial Championships. To do this, Julia would need to total 135kg. Going into this meet with confidence, Julia opened in the Snatch with 63kg. Looking strong, Julia would follow her first lift with successful attempts at 66 and 69kg. The momentum displayed in the Snatch would follow into the Clean and Jerk round. Julia opened with a well-executed 76kg, putting her 10kg ahead of what she needed to qualify for Provincials. In fact, it put her so far ahead that she was only 5kg away from qualifying for the Canadian Championships! Focused, Julia continued her string of favorable lifts, scoring with 79kg in her second Clean and Jerk attempt, and finally, with 81kg in her third, allowing her to finish her competition with a total of 150kg, and the right to compete at the 2015 Canadian Championships!

2014 Ray Hamilton Classic Medal Winnters (Women's 69kg) L to R: Julia Boggia - 3rd, Maya Laylor - 1st, Michelle McElligot - 2nd

2014 Ray Hamilton Classic Medal Winnters (Women’s 69kg) L to R: Julia Boggia – 3rd, Maya Laylor – 1st, Michelle McElligot – 2nd

Just as at last year’s Ray Hamilton Classic, Team JustLift would bring home a collection of medals with 2 Gold, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze. Perhaps more importantly, all of our medalists qualified for Nationals in May next year, putting our athletes in a very good position at the start of our competitive season.

As Head Coach, I’d like to thank my good friend, and fellow coach, Ian Haya, for assisting myself and our athletes in their warm-ups and weight selection when they were out on the platform; we couldn’t have done it without him. I’d also like to thank the athletes that performed so well at this past meet; we would not be the club we are without you! It is an immense honor to have had a hand in both your development and accomplishments as athletes. And, finally, I’d like to thank everyone else at JustLift who followed our performance and cheered us on! It is because we are a community that trains together to be the best that we can be that enables us to experience the successes we have had. We’re only going to continue getting better!

Weightlifting in Ontario has grown leaps and bounds since we began. The competitive standard has only gotten higher. Are we up to the challenge? I think our performance says so.