Another First for the CMWFHCM - Une autre première pour la CMWFHCM
Another First for the Canadian Masters Weightlifting Federation
A small but significant step towards the inclusion of Para Weightlifting
The 2022 Canadian Masters Weightlifting Championships which just concluded last month in Moncton, New Brunswick, included their very first in-person adaptive athlete competing as a Para Weightlifter. Nalani Perry, who competed in the Women’s 40-44 age and 87+ bodyweight categories, was successful at all six attempts, three for each contested lift. Her highest Snatch attempt of 36 kg and Clean and Jerk attempt of 45 kg gave her an 81 kg total and qualified her for the 2022 World Masters Championships this December in Orlando. Nalani will compete as an “adaptive athlete” the nomenclature used by the USAW Masters and the International Weightlifting Federation Masters Committee. In Canada adaptive athletes who are members of the Canadian Masters Weightlifting Federation are referred to as Para Weightlifters. They are adaptive athletes using some modifications to the rules of Olympic style weightlifting.
Due to a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) with her joints being in an unstable position, Nalani competed in the PW5 Para Weightlifting category, “Limited Range of Motion and Joint Instability.”
More information about Canadian Para Weightlifting can be found here:
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nalani.
This journey into our sport must certainly involve trusted individuals by your side. Do you have a support team working with you?
I have a team of people that I work with on a regular basis that I'd like to mention. My coaches present at the National Championships were Morgan Crowe and Cody Steeves. Behind the scenes I have a support team that includes my Physiotherapist Mike Connors, Athletic Therapist Eric Richard, and Massage Therapist & Acupuncturist Bruce Bradley all from Young Kempt Physiotherapy; and my Sport Dietitian Michaela Henderson from Coastal Sport & Wellness. The team of people that work with me as an adaptive athlete are instrumental to my success. These people keep me able to be active and do the things I love to do (like lifting).
How did you get involved in weightlifting as an adaptive athlete?
Pre-weightlifting I started out in CrossFit. My physiotherapist (Michael Connors, Young Kempt Physiotherapy) had joined a CrossFit gym and he spoke highly of the type of functional fitness that CrossFit provided for him during our physiotherapy sessions. The more he talked about it, the more I wanted to try it. So, I ended up taking the 'introduction to CrossFit' Discovery Sessions at CrossFit Basinview in Bedford, Nova Scotia. The instructor mentioned that I was a natural at Olympic weightlifting, which was exactly how I felt as well. I naturally gravitated toward Olympic weightlifting as time went on. I was doing a mixture of CrossFit classes and weightlifting classes for about two years but completely fell in love with Olympic weightlifting. It became a passion and gives me joy. Once the pandemic hit, I moved to just doing Olympic weightlifting with metabolic conditioning instead of CrossFit and I haven't looked back.
Initially I didn't approach weightlifting as 'adaptive' for me. None of us knew it existed as we hadn't heard of any adaptive athletes in Olympic weightlifting. So, we just approached it as a "do what you can with what you have" attitude. That means what I do today may not be what I do tomorrow. As an adaptive athlete, the 'field of play' can be very different day-to-day based on how I'm feeling, what injuries I have, and any modifications I need to make. I may need to use bracing, or not, depending on these factors. We very rarely say 'no' to doing anything and that means a lot as an adaptive athlete. Modifications can be made to every exercise and movement. You just have to find the right way of doing it for the individual in keeping with the intended movement pattern.
As an adaptive athlete, Olympic weightlifting has changed my life. It gives me a means to strengthen my body and be alongside a team of athletes that don't care if I'm adaptive or able-bodied. They treat me just like anyone else and support me as I support them.
What are some of your personal thoughts as a Para Weightlifter at the Nationals Championships?
I have to admit Nationals was my first big competition. I had only ever done one other local, much smaller, competition, so it was a little nerve-wracking for me. Luckily, I had another team member also competing (Brittany Klingmann), and one of my local coaches Morgan Crowe. Cody Steeves was also coaching us that day as he's a team member, but also a coach in Dieppe, NB. It felt great to have these folks together and experience our first in-person Nationals together!
Everyone in the warmup area was very supportive of each other. Lots of smiles, and a little bit of nerves for the athletes. I'm not sure anyone actually knew I was an adaptive athlete, but if they did, they certainly hid it well. I was treated just like everyone else, which was appreciated. The camaraderie was evident as the ladies and their coaches were ready to bring their strength to the platform and show what they were there to do.
In terms of the field of play, it was exciting. I knew what I was there to do, and I was driven to do it. There was a lot of adrenaline. I wanted to put up a qualifying total for the World Championships, and also show that adaptive athletes can absolutely complete in this sport. I may, or may not, look a little different but it doesn't mean that I can't lift alongside able-bodies athletes.
Going 6 for 6 was the optimal outcome of the competition for me. We made calculated conservative goals for each lift and had different plans for different scenarios based on how my snatches went so that I could put up the qualifying total for Worlds. Safety was of the utmost importance of course. Once I hit that total, I went for it and it was exhilarating. I made a big kg jump between my second and third attempt at C&J because I personally wanted to leave everything on that platform, in that field of play, in order for me to feel like I had won. Boy did I ever! It was one of the best experiences of my lifting to date. Having the confidence in yourself, and in the prep work you've done in advance of the competition was everything. It all came together seamlessly, and I'm very appreciative of everyone that has gotten me to this place.
Receiving a gold medal as the first female para weightlifter in Canada was amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better achievement and I'm grateful that the CMWFHCM has a para weightlifting program that adaptive athletes can take part in.
What are your goals as an adaptive athlete competing as a para weightlifter?
Short Term Goals: I'm currently working on bettering my technique. It's a never-ending goal! I'm also focusing on building additional strength in the areas of my body that need it so that I can be a stronger athlete overall. I know you have to put in just as much effort for accessory work just as much as the two lifts themselves! I'll be competing in a local event in September, and I'll be starting to prepare for the IWF Masters World Championships in Orlando, FL in December, as well as the World Masters Cup in NZ in March (2023). I'm looking forward to continuing to show that adaptive athletes can be para weightlifters.
Long Term Goals: I would like to continue to compete locally, nationally and internationally. It's my goal to prove and show that adaptive athletes can be para weightlifters. There is no better way to show something, than to prove that it can be done, and done successfully. I am currently collaborating with Weightlifting Nova Scotia to implement an adaptive athlete program for para weightlifters in Nova Scotia. It is eventually my goal that this para weightlifting program will drive a framework that can be used for the sport so that the weightlifting community has the supports in place to implement adaptive programs nationally. Adaptive Athletes need to see themselves in this sport, so let's provide them with the opportunities to do that.
We see Nalani’s attempts in these two exciting photos. The first is Nalani completing her successful Snatch attempt of 36 kg (moving the barbell from the platform and over her head in one complete and fluid motion). From that position, Nalani extended her legs, stood up, and awaited the head referee’s signal to return the bar to the platform. In the second photo, Nalani is in the “catch” position of the Jerk portion of her successful 45 kg Clean and Jerk attempt. Prior to that photo, Nalani lifted the barbell off the platform and guided it to her shoulder-clavicle area of her chest. From that position, she dipped, incorporating a slight bending of her legs at the knees, and pushed the barbell overhead. In this photo, her arms have reached their full extension with the weight centered just above her head, and her legs supporting the weight, using a split leg technique. After this photo frame, Nalani returned her legs, fully extended, into the standing position and awaited the referee’s signal to return the bar to the platform.
Nalani was awarded a gold medal for her performance, to which we are sure many awards will follow. Also included is a picture that shows the competitors of Session 7, of which Nalani shared many exciting moments with and a picture of Federation President, Mark Gomes, proudly awarding Nalani her Gold Medal.