The Battle of the 52s

Our pick of the 2017 World Classic Powerlifting Championships

This rollercoaster of a battle really did have it all: world records, big benches, and of course a ‘pull for the win’. The women’s Open 52kg class was a veritable showcase of the sport of powerlifting and a joy to behold. At the world stage, with so much on the line, this battle was one of the best of the whole championships.

In the run up to the competition in Minsk, most of the attention had been focused around USA’s Marisa Inda and Australia’s Elizabeth Craven; two of the biggest names in women’s powerlifting and the titans of the weight class. Marisa Inda had been dazzling the interwebs with her impressive training numbers (not to mention her appearance on Ellen). With her nominated total coming in at over 10kg above the nearest competitor, she was the favourite to take home gold. It would not be plain sailing for Inda however as next up in the nominations list was Australia’s mighty Liz Craven.

noms
(Nominations leading into the competition. International Powerlifting Federation)

Although there was a noticeable difference in the nominations between the two, Craven and Inda were well matched leading up to the competition. Craven’s impressive training footage realistically put the two within touching distance and her lifting experience would certainly help to make this a must watch showdown. However, what many commentators failed to remark was that this was not going to be a two-horse race.

The Russian veteran Olga Golubeva basically tied the nomination total of Craven and was also only 2.5kg away from the world record bench press. Her lack of ‘instafame’ seemingly dampened the expectations surrounding her. And last but certainly not least in this round-up is the “deadlift cyborg”, Joy Nnamani, from the UK. Although her nominated total was substantially less than the aforementioned trio, Joy is considerably younger than her counterparts which might suggest that her progression could have been much more rapid than the Masters 1 ladies ahead of her. In addition, you should never rule out a big deadlifter.

The squat session reminded every powerlifting aficionado why the live event is so riveting. All of the top 4 nominees started strongly. The first round saw Golubeva exhibiting her steely squat technique, Nnamani hitting a PB with relative ease and Craven boosting her chances for gold with 145kg – a 7.5kg lead on Inda’s first attempt.

The drama kicked off in round 2.

Inda cut her second squat and was met with three red lights. The previous favourite had just thrown her own spanner into the works. Advantage Craven. With the squat numbers being so close between the two, this really was a turning point for the whole competition. Craven had opened up a gap that would be unsurmountable in the squat and tricky for the rest of the competition. Inda had also thrown away any chance of a squat medal as Nnamani powered through a heroic second attempt PB (narrowly beaten by Marcela Sandvik on ‘grindability’) of 145kg, while Craven also squatted solidly with a 150kg second attempt and a brief World Record of 156kg on her third. The Russian showed her grit and resolve to squat 147.5kg, putting her in a good position leading up to her best event.

Inda, being the warrior that she undoubtedly is, made up ground by hitting her third squat and clawing back vital kilos to put her in 5th place with 142.5kg. In the pause, praise was lauded upon Nnamani by commentator Ryan ‘6packlapadat’ Lapadat who heralded her as having “the lifting day of her life”. Interestingly, in the commentators’ predictions for the title, Inda was nowhere to be seen. The money was on either Liz or Joy to take home the crown.

A post shared by Liz Craven (@lizpowerlifts) on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:45am PDT

 

The review of the squat session cannot come to a close without honouring the impeccable performance of Suzanne ‘Sioux-z’ Hartwig-Gary. This veteran US lifter unequivocally stole the show, not just for her electric on stage presence but also for her insane squatting ability. The American came away with a new world record after snatching the gold away from Craven by 500 grams with a 156.5kg lift. The focus and control of her lifts was enough to make observers feel as if she was nonchalantly hitting singles in the gym, not lifting weights that no human in existence had ever lifted in her class. On hearing her shout “It’s me and you God, let’s go!” for the first time, it was clear to see that we were in for a show. More on Sioux-z later.

The standings leading into the bench press were Hartwig-Gary in 1, followed by Craven, Nnamani, Golubeva, and then Inda. The results of the bench press threw up very little in the way of surprise. Russia came away with gold: benching 100kg (just 5kg away from the world record). Swedish lifter Sophia Waldemarson came away with silver after utilising a fantastic bench arch and concrete technique to hit 97.5kg. A much more assured performance from Inda saw her go 3 for 3 to clinch the bronze and gather some momentum and confidence leading into the deads. Craven lost a little ground with her 3 for 3 performance culminating in a 85kg best, and Nnamani came away with two new PBs going 2 for 3 – yes that’s right, she opened with a PB! The heat really was on now.

 

Golubeva – 247.5, Craven – 241, Inda – 237.5, Hartwig-Gary – 234, Nnamani – 230.

Nnamani was now the mathematical favourite due to her monster deadlift but all four were still in contention. Nnamani opened with 182.5kg; storming ahead in the first round. Her second round call of 191kg (new world record) heaped the pressure on the others; lest the 24 year old Brit run away with the title. The other three front runners all secured their openers meaning that the running order was now Australia (413.5), Great Britain (412.5), Russia (412.5), and then USA (Inda,405). Spurred on by tantalising second attempt misses from Golubeva and Craven; Inda secured her 15kg jump of a second deadlift to take a 6.5kg lead over Liz and a 7.5kg lead over Olga and Joy.

The lead would be stripped away with Nnamani’s next successful lift as Team GB confidently chose a second attempt of 191kg for the young cyborg which would win her a new world record and effectively put the competition to bed. Joy coolly walked up to the bar, spun out her toes and ‘pulled for the win’.

But wait, what? More drama?

A post shared by Marisa Inda (@marisainda) on Jun 28, 2017 at 8:14pm PDT

 

Nnamani, arguably one of the best deadlifters in the world, failed to bring the bar past her knees. In failing her second attempt, not only did she slice the ball back into Inda’s court but she presumably expended a great deal of energy in fighting the 8 second grinder.

What would this all mean going into the third and final round? Golubeva was up first, she now had the chance to tie Inda for first place with her last deadlift attempt of 172.5kg (although having a heavier bodyweight). A successful lift would take the silver medal away from Craven and knock Nnamani off of the podium. An injury that was alluded to by head commentator Christina Chamley prevented the Russian from locking out yet again but would see her place in a very respectable 4th place. Next up Craven. After very narrowly missing her 180kg second attempt Craven upped the ante and loaded an extra 2.5kg onto the bar. This would put her ahead of both Inda and Nnamani for the #1 spot (another ‘pull for the win’, we were being spoiled). A valiant fight saw her bring the bar up to the mid-thigh but sadly no further. Next stop, team USA headquarters. Inda’s competition was falling away at her feet. Still vulnerable in 1st place; USA opted for 185kg as a third deadlift. This 2.5kg increase would add to her lead and secure the win if Nnamani failed to complete her 191kg final attempt; which the eyes in Marisa’s corner were banking on. Even after the very smooth previous pull of 182.5kg from Inda, the 185 proved to be just that little bit too heavy. That’s right folks – another missed deadlift, another opportunity for the tide to turn!

Two grind battles in the squat, one missed bench, and a missed deadlift must have surely taxed Nnamani greatly leading into this. However, Nnamani’s pre-lift laughter and smiles seemed to mask any signs of nerves or fatigue going into this momentous pull. The stage was set, the crowd was cheering, all eyes were front and centre; ready for Joy’s wide sumo set-up. The bar broke from the floor, moved slowly upwards, passed the point where her previous attempt had vanquished her, only to come to a halt an inch higher. Inda takes the title!

Climbing back from 5th place after the squats and 4th after the first round of deadlifts, Inda improved on her 2016 placing by 4 spots to take gold after a rollercoaster of a competition. Craven took the silver and Nnamani took home bronze. With a combined total of seven missed deadlifts coming from the top four women, it really puts into perspective how different the competition could have been. Any one of these four women could have taken home the crown.

 

One lady who did not have a problem when it came to failing lifts was Sioux-z H-G. The only competitor to go 9 for 9 undoubtedly stole the show from 5th position. The 48 year old Team USA coach came away with a new world record, a new PB total, and this writer’s heart. Her solid consistency is trumped only by her deadlift set up. Anyone who is unfamiliar with this spectacle should prepare themselves for some powerlifting gold. The serene Sioux-z H-G salmon jumps into the air multiple times before breaking into a robotic strutting dance as she approaches the bar. She then reverts back to being cool, calm and collected to successfully complete her lifts.

 

“It’s you and me God, let’s go!”

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