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WAYNE YOUNG: Never underestimate anyone

Tilman Gallant of Summerside proudly wears the four medals – one gold and three bronze – he won at the International Powerlifting Federation’s Classic world powerlifting championships in Calgary recently. Gallant also set a world record in bench press for the Master 4, 93-kilo category.
Tilman Gallant of Summerside proudly wears the four medals – one gold and three bronze – he won at the International Powerlifting Federation’s Classic world powerlifting championships in Calgary recently. Gallant also set a world record in bench press for the Master 4, 93-kilo category. - Jason Simmonds

Overcoming challenges through perseverance and hard work – and smashing stereotypes along the way

I’ve never been good at setting goals and as I enter my senior years, that’s probably not going to change.

But someone like Tilman Gallant of Summerside could help change that mindset.

Four years ago, at 66, he said not only would he like to still be powerlifting at 70, he’d also like to set a world record.

Easier said than done, you might say. But earlier this summer, during an international powerlifting championship in Calgary, Gallant accomplished both goals. Actually, he set two world records in the master’s category, first lifting 304.7 pounds to break the previous record, then eclipsing that on his very next lift raising the new standard to 308 pounds.

Gallant told sports reporter Jason Simmonds that barring an injury, he has no intention of slowing down - the 2019 world championship in Sweden and the 2019 Commonwealth championships in St. John’s are his new goals.

“I’m looking at 70 as a beginning, not an end.”

I’ll not be rushing out to purchase a set of barbells, but Gallant’s story has inspired me to start setting some goals of my own.

That’s something Cameron Gordon, a much younger but equally determined powerlifter, knows a lot about. His mother put it this way in a recent interview. “Powerlifting is very hard and he just shows that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve whatever you want.”

The Stratford teenager has Down syndrome and a rare and painful skin condition. But that didn’t stop him from taking up powerlifting three years ago to build up his strength and confidence.

It clearly worked.

Last weekend, he competed in the Eastern Canadian Powerlifting championship in Summerside. “I’m so happy and so proud,” he said in a recent interview. “I just love to be strong. It feels amazing and I love it.”

Arlene Van Diepen of Green Meadows also loves the sport, and she had to overcome considerable challenges to excel. She has Crohn’s disease and has had an ileostomy since 2000. But just one year ago, at 59, she agreed to try powerlifting and earlier this summer, she won bronze at the nationals in Calgary and qualified for the world championship.

Overcoming adversity is something Leanne McLaughlin also knows something about. In Summerside last weekend for the Eastern Canadian powerlifting championships, the Halifax powerlifter told Journal-Pioneer reporter Desiree Antsey she developed scoliosis as a teenager and required three major back surgeries to straighten a severely curved spine. Although her hips and shoulders are uneven, she has found a way to excel in the sport at 23, improving her confidence, muscles and posture along the way.

McLaughlin weighs 125 pounds and can raise a 303-pound bar above her head. “I transitioned from a little weak person that weighed 90 pounds to lifting almost three times my body weight,” she told Antsey. “You should never underestimate anyone.”

No matter what challenges they faced, all four of these amazing powerlifters stayed focused and disciplined in their training before they enjoyed what vanDiepen called “a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.”

Powerlifting may not be for everyone, but surely, we can all take a lesson from these remarkable athletes.

When it comes to inspiring others, they’re all lifting well above their weight – and sending some powerful life lessons along the way.

- Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

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