Reflections on the Ontario Master’s Open – A Tribute to My Athletes

​On the last weekend of the coldest month of the year, Six Lifts Weightlifting fielded the largest ever team to compete at the largest meet hosted by the Ontario Weightlifting Association, the Ontario Masters Open at St. Thomas. Lou, Tom, Marino, Gobhi, Jon, and Whitney competed amongst over 130 athletes over the course of two days and every single one of them put up a stellar performance. This was also the single biggest team I have ever coached at a single competition and I certainly could not have done it without the support of the team at Six Lifts Weightlifting. 
Before discussing individual performances, I want to take a moment here to highlight some of the big-picture take-aways from this competition:

  1. Seeing Masters Athlete compete, it redoubled the conviction in my mind that the sport of Olympic Weightlifting is for EVERYBODY. Our bodies can move into longevity provided that we continue to focus on recovery and smart programming. The oldest competitor at this event was born in 1943! Furthermore, how the Six Lifts team performed showed that athletic performance need not be necessarily inversely proportional to age. If anything, under proper guidance and care, athletes will age like wine.
  2. In terms of team dynamics, I truly believe Six Lifts stands rises above the standard of what I have witnessed in the competitive circuit. For one, all of our athletes are extremely professional, friendly, and demonstrates excellent camaraderie and sportsmanship. We are courteous to fellow competitors, we share platforms, and even personal equipment. We don’t actively try to undermine other competitors because we want to compete against the best version so that we can push ourselves to be the best we can be. The mutual support we have for each other is unparalleled. We rejoice in each other’s’ triumphs and carry each other through adversity.
  3. My athletes have indomitable will. A long time ago, I had a chat with everyone where I asked them: “are you athletes or are you tourists?” Of course we want to have fun, but we also have a mission. That mission isn’t about getting a medal, or getting a podium finish. That mission is about conquering the self. That mission is about not going down without a fight, and that mission is about giving the competition a run for their money, even if we know we may not necessarily win. Back in the Airborne Infantry, we referred to this as the patrolling spirit. That intestinal fortitude to adapt and overcome. Old Latin saying goes, “vincit qui se vincit” (one who conquers the self, conquers all); the Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “they who have a reason for why can handle almost anyhow.” Every single one of them this weekend left the competition platform after their last attempts having absolutely nothing left in the tank. My athletes have demonstrated, beyond doubt, that what beats in their chests are lionhearts. 


​Now, the thing everyone’s waiting for, individual shout outs:

By far the star of the show. Assistant, then promoted to head, coach Sir Tuxalot became the unequivocal mascot of our team. He was the lynchpin that held us all together. Furthermore, Tux brought something that none of us could have anticipated. A calming presence, and the purest love and support we can imagine. Without you Tux, it’s hard to say if we could’ve done as well as a team. Despite being small, you are mighty and we all strive to be half as good looking as you doing what you do. 


​Louisa Cantelon:
Lou finished her competition with a 37kg/81.4lb snatch and 48kg/105.6lb clean and jerk for a 85kg total which qualified her for Master Pan Ams! Furthermore, although the judges turned down her third attempts at 40kg snatch and 50kg clean and jerk, they were nonetheless successful lifts that I am willing to count towards her new PRs. Not many people saw, but Lou was so ecstatic that she had tears of joy streaming from her face upon discovering that her total qualified her for international level competition. Dear Lou, it has been an absolute pleasure going along with you on this journey. You’ve earned it! I look forward to seeing you perform at Master’s Nationals, Pan Ams, and Worlds!

​Tom Seniuk:
Tom and I go way back. When I first moved to Toronto 3 years ago, he was one of the first people I trained with at CrossFit Toronto and 646 Weightlifting. When he showed up at 6S, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Tom had decided to take a break from the sport to focus on mental and physical recovery. It seems the time off did him a lot of good. Tom finished with a monstrous 110kg/242lb Snatch (which equaled his best competition snatch) and 130kg/286lb clean and jerk (he got called on a press out for his 135kg/297lb attempt; keeping in mind of course that his best competition clean and jerk is 132kg). With these numbers, Tom also qualified for Pan Ams in June! Tom, you’re a beast, and I want you to come back to weightlifting full-time to see what we can push in the months and years to come.
​Marino Iurrilo:
Marino, you are an honorary member of Six Lifts as far as I am concerned, and I am proud to be your coach anytime, anywhere. This was Marino’s first ever Olympic Weightlifting Competition, and he finished with a 73kg/165lb snatch and 102/225lb clean and jerk. Marino claims that he wasn’t used to resting so long in between attempts, but I think maybe 19.1 had something to do with it. Anyways this was a great performance for Marino and despite some hiccups (i.e. me having to load the competition bar because the loaders were not doing their jobs), we pulled out some big numbers that brings qualification for Pan Ams a step closer to reality for the upcoming year (just don’t do the Open when you’re trying to qualify, for the love of god). 
Gobhi Thievendran:
Gobhi was the first athlete I’ve ever coached at Six Lifts, and since then, he has been probably the most ride or die athlete I’ve ever had. With Gobhi, this was a test event, after making significant adjustments to his technique, we had managed our expectations going in with what we were going to accomplish. For one, we accomplished technical consistency. He finished with a 66kg/145lb snatch and 84kg/185lb clean and jerk for a competition PR total of 150kg. One of the best parts about coaching Gobhi this time around was how relaxed and confident he looked throughout the competition. In fact, Gobhi said to me, “I pay you to stress out for me.” Good call my man, externalize it! 
​Jonathan Gamble:
I’ve said to Jon, “you are the tallest yet most mobile weightlifter I’ve ever met.” And this man showed up to the meet and brought it. Jon opened this meet with numbers that he finished his last competition at. He finished with an 88kg/194lb snatch and 107kg/235lb clean and jerk. The thing I am most proud of about Jon is how much he overcame his nerves this meet. This is a very cerebrally-demanding sport, and this only being Jon’s second meet, at one of the biggest competition venues in the province, his performance was nothing short of incredible. Jon almost PR’d too! Furthermore, I would be completely amiss if I did not make mention of his partner Kate and the monumental role she played in moral support, not of only Jon, but of the rest of the team as well. Jon and Kate, thank you dearly for being amazing team mates, next time bring the remaining eight. 
​Whitney Nelsen:
Your own coach Whitney, who is easily the most technically proficient and consistent athlete I have ever worked with, put up numbers that even a few short months ago, she wouldn’t have imagined. If any of you watch Whit lift, you’ll see that every lift looks exactly the same, from 50% to supramaximal attempts. Whitney finished with a 65kg/143lb snatch (competition PR) and 75kg/165lb clean and jerk for a 140kg total (competition PR). This qualified Whit for Masters Pan Ams (by a longshot) and Masters Worlds! Watching Whitney’s progress over the last year of us working together has been a trip. The precision at which she executes each lift is truly a sight to behold and I am more than convinced that I have learned just as much from her as she has from me. 
Alysha Coughler:
Aly, you saved my life this weekend. After marathon coaching sessions, I did not have any opportunities to get meals. As the team dietitian, you made sure that not only they were re-fed after making weight, but that I was fed so that they could have my best. I don’t know what I would’ve done had you not been there. Moreover, the work that you have done on both myself and the team has been incredible and the results show. You are a true master of your craft and the whole team and I owe a massive debt of gratitude for keeping us carb-ed up and caffeinated throughout the weekend!

Melissa Roumanis:
The organic mechanic, the pain guru, the witch-doctor whose healing power is nothing short of divine intervention. Even though she was away at the Canada Games, Mel made sure that the team is in good physical shape, and pain free going into the competition. Moreover, Mel gave us extremely important mobility exercises for activation. Hey y’all, remember those ITYWs? Yeah that’s Mel. The 11’s? Mel. Armbars? You guessed it, Mel again. 
The rest of the Six Lifts Team Holding down the Fort at Home:
Thank you all for the support you showed the team. I could not be happier at how much we’ve come together as a team and how invested you are in each other’s success. I say this over and over again, as a team, we are the rising tide that lifts all boats. Plus, the running commentaries in our group chat is lit AF. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, y’all had to be there.

We are now looking forward to March 9th, when 5 more members of Six Lifts will form a second war party to compete at the Sabaria Competition in Oakville. This time, all 5 competitors will be first time competitors and we will be bringing fresh blood into the Ontario Weightlifting circuit. Furthermore, we are hunkering down for Pan Ams in Orlando next! Watch out Ontario, we are not here to take part, we are here to take over!


A very proud coach Cheng

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