St. Albert was well represented at the recent 2022 Junior National Weightlifting Championships in Montreal earlier this month as 17-year-old Jaxon Severo and 15-year-old Audrey Hillman each won multiple gold medals.
Both athletes train at Farm Strong Athletics, a St. Albert gym and fitness club.
Severo, a St. Albert Catholic High School student, won gold in the "snatch" lift, silver in the "clean-and-jerk" lift, and gold in the "total" category. The total category is the combined score from the snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts.
For Severo, the Junior National Championships was a comeback performance.
"It was fantastic," he said.
Just two weeks before the Junior competition, Severo travelled to Kelowna to compete in the Senior National Championships. Severo said he was the only junior athlete in his weight class at the Senior event.
“It didn’t pan out very well, so I had a big comeback at [the Juniors],” he said.
Severo has only been training and weightlifting competitively for a year and eight months.
“I had a background in wrestling but then because of COVID there was literally zero wrestling because it’s so physical," Severo said, adding, "I wasn’t really planning on [weightlifting] long-term until I was like, ‘Wow, I love this, and I’m really good at it.’
"I fell in love with the sport.”
Severo said his personal best for the clean-and-jerk lift, in competition, is 145 kilograms, and for the snatch lift his record is 120 kilograms in competition, and 130 kilograms in training.
The young athlete said his next goal is to win the Senior National Championship as a Junior. "After that it’d be Olympics, I guess,” he said.
Hillman, who attends Archbishop MacDonald High School in Edmonton, won all three gold medals in her weight division.
“I was super happy with how I performed," Hillman said.
"I was extremely nervous, so I wasn’t exactly sure how Nationals was going to go; I definitely was very surprised and happy with how I did.”
Hillman said she started weightlifting about three years ago after she quit gymnastics. "I tried Olympic weightlifting because my mom was really into it and I loved it so much so I just kept doing it.”
After years of competitive gymnastics, Hillman said weightlifting has only increased her competitive spirit.
"[Weightlifting] has just fed it even more," she said.
Hillman said her personal records are 65 kilograms for the clean-and-jerk lift, and 57 kilograms for the snatch lift.
“The motivation for me is always just getting new [personal records] and going and lifting as heavy as I can," Hillman said, adding she is always "just trying to get as strong as I can be.”
Severo and Hillman were just two of five youth athletes from Farm Strong Athletics who competed at the Junior Nationals in Montreal.
Michelle Guthrie, 16, and Andriena Carrero, 16, didn't win medals despite strong performances. Guthrie did, however, set a new personal record in competition as she completed a 46-kilogram snatch lift.
The fifth athlete from Farm Strong Athletics was Lincoln Taylor, 15, who won a bronze medal in the snatch lift.
For Evan Taylor, the owner of Farm Strong, seeing the young athletes do so well at the competition was a rewarding experience.
"When you develop an athlete from scratch like we have with all of these athletes that started out in the club, and they [become] national champions … it is super rewarding,” Taylor said.
“Even though [they’re] training individually, competing individually, the kids that went on this trip I can see that they’re better friends at the end of the weekend than they were at the start," he said, adding, "Those travel experiences are priceless.”
The Farm Strong crew had a hectic travel experience getting to Montreal. Taylor said just 12 hours before the group was supposed to board their flight, the flight was cancelled.
The group was able to get on another flight, but it was to Ottawa. From Ottawa, the crew took two Ubers to Montreal, where they arrived just four hours before the first athlete, Taylor, was scheduled to weigh in and compete.
“If there’s anyone interested in the sport and want to come try us out, we give all kids a free try to see if they like it," Taylor said.
"It’s an awesome sport that develops a lot of different attributes for your athleticism.”