On a chilly Friday evening at Winnipeg’s Brickhouse Gym, surrounded by the sounds of clanging iron plates and spontaneous cheers as someone grinds through their last heavy set, the Manitoba Powerlifting Association 2018 Best Lifter awards were presented to two Manitoban powerlifters, Hailey Kostynuik and Olimar Gutierrez, who proved themselves to be truly the province’s most impressive lifters.
Everything Winnipeg teamed up with the Manitoba Powerlifting Association to capture the evening and showcase not just these two awe-inspiring strength athletes, but the sport of powerlifting in general and the ways in which it’s grown and continues to develop in Manitoba. The MPA is a non-profit entity “for all athletes in Manitoba – all ages, all genders, all sexes, all abilities,” President Mathew Bowen explained. Membership in the sport has been growing continuously and is currently around 150-160 members province-wide, with about 3000 members across the country.
Bowen outlined how the Best Lifter awards are determined each year, saying “it’s all a little bit relative, but we look for who won the most, who had the most accomplishments, who was the strongest overall.” The 2018 Best Female Lifter was awarded to Hailey Kostyniuk, who not only came in first place in her class at the Canadian Powerlifting Union National Championships, but also took third place at the International Powerlifting Federation World Championships. The woman is a powerhouse. Having only started powerlifting in 2014, this 26-year-old has a mind-blowing 235kg squat (a little over 520lbs). Olimar Gutierrez, 2018’s Best Male Lifter, is just as impressive. After winning the MPA Provincial Championships, Gutierrez went on to win gold again at the CPU Western Championships, where he pulled a 260kg deadlift (a little over 573lbs). “He had the second highest wilks [a coefficient that can be used to measure the strength of a powerlifter against other powerlifters despite the different weights of the lifters] of all males this year and two big wins, so he’s the best lifter this year,” Bowen said.
Bowen himself has been involved in powerlifting since 2012 after looking for a way to build strength. He competed for the first time in 2014 at the MPA Provincials and has since competed at the national level and has become not only MPA President, but a nationally certified referee. While the evening’s winners certainly boast some impressive scores, Bowen stresses that powerlifting is truly for anyone, “whenever someone says they want to try powerlifting they always say they’re not strong enough. You are strong enough, you are always strong enough. You can compete on any given day of the week, just do it. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have. Everyone can compete.”
It’s that encouraging sense of camaraderie and community that Bowen sees as one of the best qualities of powerlifting. “Everybody in this sport helps one another. If you’re in a team sport you may be cheering against the other team, you may be betting against them. With us, even if you’re competing directly against another person, you’re cheering for them. Everybody is screaming at one another, pushing them to go forward and make their lifts. Everybody, enemies and friends, we’re rooting for people to complete their lifts and be better and be stronger.”
So, for those of you looking to build strength, join a new community, or test out your lifts, one of the best ways to get started is to experience a competition. This Saturday, February 2, 2019, Brickhouse Gym is hosting the 4th Annual Power Challenge, the province’s largest and most diverse competition to date. Not only are there 56 athletes competing, but those athletes run the gamut in terms of age, gender, and ability. With lifters as young as 15 and as old as 63, with three members of Special Olympics Manitoba’s powerlifting team competing, and with a healthy mix of both men and women hitting the platform, the sport truly does bring a unique and diverse collection of people together. Admission is $10, and the gym is taking charitable donations for the Anxiety Disorder Association of Manitoba at the door.