Three Australian Championships in six weeks! Can that be right? – yes, straight after the Australian Juniors in Canberra, and an enormous Australian Masters in Cairns, on June 28 to 30 Powerlifting Australia put on its peak event, the Australian Championships, at the venerable Victorian Weightlifting Stadium. In bracing conditions, a third squadron of 100 lifters trashed the Record books and set Australia up for dominant teams to the coming internationals.

The Women’s classes saw almost every division need an Australian Record to win. The roll call started with Wendy Chan, way out in front at 48kg with 371kg Total. Then ancient Liz Craven stunned everyone, including her orthopedic surgeon, with a 186kg AR Deadlift after nearly losing her thumb in a major gym accident (do not use “safety racks” in the Squat!), to total 412kg for a decisive win at 53kg. That held up as Best Lifter for nary a moment, as up and comer Jess Sewastenko pushed through to 508 points via another Record Total, 435kg at 58kg.

The heavier Women’s classes began with Tara Gripton returning to form with 448kg at 64kg, including yet another Deadlift record of 200kg. At that point, four classes, four Deadlift Records, suspicion was growing that the new Samtek super grip bar was proving a big factor in the lifting equation. Kelli Fagan did nothing to dispel that with her best Deadlift in a long time of 200kg adding to a 471kg AR Total at 72kg, holding off desperate last attempt PB Deadlifts from Isabella Thomson (188kg success) and Steph Lara (211 tragic miss). Up at the high end of the scales, Yani Zhao was back from illness with 485kg at 84kg and football tragic Nolene Kingi shrugged off a shoulder reconstruction and a ruptured calf to total an AR 508kg before heading back to the MCG centre square. Rounding off the Women’s was ultra-promising Brea De Jonge, 506kg at 17 years of age and 100+kg bodyweight.

On to the Men’s classes went the drama and the first two titles saw virtual walkovers for Pierrson Soh 62kg and Karl Di Falco 69kg, the latter saving himself for another World Record attempt in Shanghai in August. The 77kg class was a different story, with three lifters tied on 667kg with one Deadlift to go, that after favourite Chad Odsey crashed out on the scales. JP Cauchi came back from a long time in the wilderness to hold on to a winning 286kg Deadlift before rushing out to buy more Samtek shares, leaving Christophe Ang lamenting as a bodyweight loser at 673kg. Next up battle-scarred Ben Sellars cheered his many supporters with a 702kg decisive win over Jacob Schepis, sent back to the library after posting a modest 682kg.

Moving up to 94kg, Matt Bartholomew was all class in shifting gears beyond the 720s he seemed stuck at, via 748kg, with barely a hair out of place. In contrast, the Mr Bean-like figure of Will Berkman was apoplectic to defy gravity with a 296kg Deadlift to snatch second from a shell-shocked Nima Panahi.

Everyone knew the 105s were the top class of the meet and no-one was disappointed, except perhaps Michael Rand, a world record holder relegated to 4th. Nicolai Cushing redeemed himself from his Oceanias meltdown to grab, temporarily, the Best Lifter slot but forever the Australian title with 800kg even. Will Phillips and Cale Rowston were utterly honourable runner-ups at 794 and 790kg, in a contest that will only be surpassed in quality at the Worlds. But then, to spoil Nicolai’s party, came the predatory figure of Cameron McKenzie who casually picked his mark of 490 points to snatch the Best Lifter title via 853kg at 120kg. Rounding off a triumphant weekend was another wilderness returnee, Josh Pattaca, grabbing the 120+kg title with 813kg.

But there was more, with the Bench Press Best Lifter titles going to two standouts, Hannah Altman with 100kg at 69kg bodyweight and the force of nature Sane Faatoe, 235kg at 129kg and looking unlucky with 240kg.

Best Clubs were JPS (Men) and Melbourne University (Women).

From here Australia’s top lifters go on to FIBO China, the World Championships in Canada and the big Asia Pacific’s in Hong Kong in December. Next year’s Nationals remain to be revealed, but will no doubt top even this year’s spectacle.

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