KABUL, Afghanistan – Powerlifters from the U.S. and several other countries are in Las Vegas this weekend for the 2011 Amateur Athletic Union World Bench Press, Deadlift and Push/Pull Powerlifting Championships. The Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino is playing host to the hundreds of AAU members flocking to the strip for the Oct. 7-9 event.
For the first time in powerlifting history, this year’s event is global. Seven International Security Assistance Forces military personnel in Afghanistan had the opportunity to compete in the championships Oct. 7 in ISAF’s gymnasium via the Internet.
“It is a good feeling to be competing in Afghanistan,” said U.S. Army Spc. Anthony Murray Jr., ISAF video production specialist and a native of Baltimore, Md. “This competition was the first to be done for our deployed service members and I am proud to be a part of this. It shows that even though we are in a war zone, we can still be a part of life in the United States.”
Powerlifting originated in the United States in the 1950s. It consists of three lifts – the squat, bench press and deadlift to test the lifters’ overall body strength.
“Powerlifting is a speed-strength sport,” said U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Hal Pittman, ISAF’s deputy chief of staff of communication and powerlifting team captain. “On Fridays, our team works on heavy bench presses and upper body and on Sundays, we work on squats, deadlifts and assistance exercises for those lifts. I encourage our lifters to do other training and cardio during the rest of the week.”
While powerlifting is portrayed as just a sport, some lifters feel there is much more to it than that.
“Opportunities like these are a great morale booster,” said U.S. Army Capt. Natasja K. Allen, a native of Port Orchard, Wash. “It gives us something to work towards and look forward to. I’ve started measuring my deployments in competitions; it makes the time go by so much faster.”
Though many power lifters will set personal bests, some may also set AAU World Records in the military division.
“I have only been powerlifting for a month and a half now,” said Murray. “When I first started I tried weights that I had used before but as our training continued and the competition got closer, I decided to go with a much heavier weight, 460 pounds. I have never tried this much weight before, but I had a lot of confidence in myself and my training. I am glad that I did it because now I am going to lift more.”
In order for the ISAF powerlifting team to compete in the bench press and deadlift competitions, six members of the powerlifting team went through training and certification to become AAU National powerlifting referees. The referees rotated during the two flights of lifting, and all of them also lifted in the competition.
“Our team competed under full AAU powerlifting rules and guidelines in the bench press and deadlift competitions,” said Pittman. “Our refs worked hard, and we videotaped the potential world record lifts for review and certification by international referees back in the states.”
A total of 14 potential military division record lifts were videotaped and uploaded for judging by an AAU-qualified panel of international referees in the U.S. Results of the competition will be released next week. Participants were broken down according to event, age and weight class.
Bench press event
Once the competitor rests his/her back on the bench, the lifter takes the loaded bar at arm's length. The lifter lowers the bar to the chest. When the bar becomes motionless on the chest, the referee gives a press command. Then the referee will call "Rack" and the lift is completed as the weight is returned to the rack.
First up to start the women’s bench press competition was U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Jeannie Deveau. This was Deveau’s first competition in the women’s military submaster (35-39 years) 148 pounds class bench press division. Though small in frame and short in stature, she potentially achieved world records in her class with lifts of 115, 125 and 135 pounds.
U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Angela Skehan, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., started powerlifting two months ago and already has a potential military world record bench press and deadlift of 105 and 300 pounds.
Also competing in the women’s division was Allen. Although she has powerlifted before, this was her first international competition, and she also set a potential world record for the women’s military open 181 pounds class bench press with lifts of 175 and 185 pounds.
To successfully complete a deadlift competitors must grasp the loaded bar which is resting on the platform floor. The lifter pulls the weights off the floor and assumes an erect position. The knees must be locked and the shoulders back, with the weight held in the lifters’ grip. At the referees command the bar is lowered to the floor under the control of the lifter.
Several outstanding deadlifts had the crowd on its feet. Skehan easily achieved all three of her deadlifts – establishing a record at 250, and then breaking it on each successive lift. Murray, Jr., deadlifted 460 pounds. U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Galan, a native of Lynchburg, Va., set a potential world record in his class by deadlifting 428 pounds.
“I most definitely do plan on continuing to compete,” said Skehan. “I am proud of my accomplishments in this competition. It makes me want to train harder and push myself further than I ever imagined.”
This work, AAU Powerlifting World Championship invades ISAF, by SSG Tamika Dillard, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.