After qualifying for three Nationals categories — Under 15, Under 17 and Under 20 — a couple of months ago, 14-year-old Conor MacDonald had his work cut out for him at age group Vic States. This was especially true considering Conor’s main rival leading into the comp: Jebez Teitinga from Phoenix Weightlifting Club.
The plan for Conor was to not drop too far behind in the snatch. Jebez was the favourite to win that lift. So Conor’s best chance was to simply to minimise Jebez’s winning margin in the snatch, and then come back with a huge clean & jerk to clinch the gold.
Conor’s coach Josh Ward explained:
“We knew he had a great chance to podium and take out gold so we went into the morning knowing we were up for a fun battle with Jebez.”
On the day of the comp, Conor came in 4kg behind after the snatch, giving Jebez a fragile lead going into the clean & jerk.
The warm-ups started getting heavy as the Phoenix team kept pushing Jebez’s weights up on the board. Conor’s team planned to open at 95kg but had to go 97kg to stay in reach. Conor nailed his opener, bringing his total above Jebez’s. But then Jebez hit back on his second attempt at 97kg to put him back in front. Now Conor was in trouble.
“Taking a 6kg jump here was not our plan but we were so far off our plan by now we had to go for it,” Josh said. “And Conor knew how much each lift meant now.”
Pulling out all the stops, Conor made 103kg — a new National U15 record. But Jebez wanted that gold just as badly, solidly nailing a 103kg on his third to go 5/6 and take back the lead.
It was do or die. Stepping onto the platform, Conor knew a 108kg clean & jerk — nothing more and nothing less — would clinch it for him. He hits it with conviction, claiming a new national record, and taking the win in the U15 and U17, while placing third in the U20 and U23.
After the comp, Conor’s coach Josh said:
“We love competition like that, it brings out the best in everyone and creates some great memories. We are excited to see Jebez and Team Phoenix back out on the platform for round two.”
Conor goes on to win the best over all lifter in the under 15 and under 17 categories with his incredible performance.
I sent my first email to them titled "I wanna lift with you folks!" in October of 2017. I started not very long after that!
I've done a lot of Power Lifting but had started really getting into Weightlifting a few years ago. I found it frustrating and so so technical but there was something about Olympic Weightlifting that was as addictive as it was occasionally infuriating. I broke my leg quite badly playing Roller Derby (my other love) and had to stop training and got into a bit of a rut, but I worked really hard to get back on track again and missed the way Weightlifting improved my skating and the way it made me feel. So, I contacted Josh and voila!
When I first walked in my only goal was to not make a complete idiot of myself, ha! No, in all honesty, Roller Derby is a really physically taxing sport and I'm often nursing niggles and mobility issues because of it and wasn't even sure I could still hit a full-depth squat. I just wanted to give it a try, I have aspirations to eventually dedicate my time to Weightlifting enough that I can compete. But that's a way off, yet.
I really like the people at CCW, this is what kept me coming back. I come in each day enjoying their company and the way Josh coaches. I like the quiet nights and the time between lifts where you could hang out with people who become your friends. I love the way everyone supports each other and how positive the vibe is.
As I mentioned, mobility and muscle soreness and injury from other sports commitments have proven tricky for me, but it's something Josh helps me with, in the way he programs for me. I've had to really start over and unlearn bad weightlifting habits and relearn things the right way, which I guess is a danger of having trained on my own for a while when I'd done Weightlifting previously. I struggle with time constraints and have to juggle a lot with tournaments, work commitments and family etc. but I make a solid effort to get to the gym as much as I can. I really miss it when I'm away too long.
I'm getting more confident and working my way towards heavier weights and better techniques. Slowly slowly. Before I started at CCW my max Snatch had only ever been 35kgs, because my form and technique were terrible. Now my 1RM Snatch is 55kgs and I'm aiming to test again soon - My C&J is 67.5kgs which is more than I'd ever managed to clean previously. Those numbers in themselves and my confidence are a good indication that I'm in a good place.
I just want to keep getting stronger, I want to keep building my ability to get faster which I find Weightlifting really great for and hitting PR numbers that I'm proud of. I've always been strong but I'd like to move better and get more dynamic in that movement.
I've recently started cleaning up my diet so I can start to cut weight and tone up the way I want to. I feel pretty determined in that and once I get on a roll, I'm pretty consistent. I need to keep committing to the cause, making sure I train whenever I can and in the best headspace I can, despite the usual life stressors. I'm absolutely a long game work in progress.
Probably my PR weights are my biggest achievements and finally nailing box jumps after some real trauma stopped me from doing them for a long time. Celebrating the wins with my gym pals the way we do and improving my technique and understanding of Weightlifting is the best.
I started training at CCW in April 2017. My girlfriend Mel was lifting there at the time, so I thought I’d try it out.
My goal when I first walked in was to just lose some weight and get stronger. Along the way, I found the movements very different to what I was used to, which I really enjoyed. Coming from a Basketball and classic gym type setting, I found the Snatch and Clean & Jerk fun to learn. I met some good friends that I enjoy training with and have never looked back.
After having both a shoulder and knee reconstruction by my early 20s, this had left my mobility less than desirable. Incorporating mobility work into my warm-ups really seemed to improve my range of motion which in turn helped the progression of my technique. Also seeing my physio (Jacinda Cheong) on a regular basis helped keep everything in check.
After 2 competitions I managed to qualify for Victorian State Champs which I am training hard for to qualify for the Senior Nationals in September.
Since starting at CCW I never thought my body could change the way it did. I started out being 120kg and now in my last competition, I managed to compete as a 94kg lifter which I never thought possible let alone within 12 months.
Coach Joshua - "First meeting Luke in our private sessions I saw that he was very raw strong. He could shift some weight no worries but mobility was a big issue! I wouldn't let him pull from the floor or squat full depth until he could do it correctly and safely. Being the type of person Luke is, he took this as a challenge to make sure he can complete the full lifts. He has worked tirelessly to improve his range of motion and has made massive improvements. Struggling with a knee injury we had to take a step back for a couple months, and again, Luke used this time to ensure he was getting better and strong everywhere else. This shows real mental strength and resilience to be able to achieve over the course a couple months. Watching his progress of losing weight and getting stronger is inspirational, to say the least."
Check Luke out on @luke.gazzola on Instagram to continue following his journey.