An Uplifting Experience
Wednesday 1st July 2015 @ 11:36 by Mark Phillip
Ashton Sports

Situated in the heart of Ashton-Under-Lyne, the gym has nurtured some of the finest sporting talent within the borough, but given its friendly and welcoming ethos, you’d be forgiven for thinking differently.

olympic gym powerlifters

rob and Jimmy

The family owned facility – which sits proudly on the fourth floor of Portland Mill – is a far cry from the salubrious confines of some of its competitors.

However, what the gym lacks in modern decoration certainly makes up for in winners.

One man who embodies the very nature of winning is 50 year old Gaz Boulton.

A familiar face around the gym, Gaz returned from the European Powerlifting Championships earlier this month as a world record holder.

It’s hard to imagine that a 375kg squat could be dwarfed on the day, but Gaz – Vice President of the Global Powerlifting committee of Great Britain– managed just that.

Gaz propelled himself into the rarefied atmosphere of powerlifting with a 260kg bench press.

The experienced lifter spoke to Reporter Sport following the event and stated: “I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better day, because my aim was to be in the top five, so it’s like winning the lottery for me.”

Last week, an anonymous couple scooped the Euromillions jackpot of £93 million.

However, you can bet your bottom dollar – or Euro to be precise – that if Gaz came into such money, he wouldn’t abandon the sport.

Detailing where his love for powerlifting came from, the veteran stated: “I started general bodybuilding training on 19th March 1984.

“A guy came into the gym and said I would be ideal at powerlifting, but at the time I knew absolutely nothing about it.

“I eventually started to train that way, entered my first competition in 1992 and have never looked back since.”

With a world record listed to his name, will Gaz leave the sport on a high? Absolutely no chance! He added: “I never want to retire from the sport; I love it too much.

“Our age groups run from 13 years old, and we had one guy who competed for France in the European Championships who was 90!

“I believe the sky is the limit when it comes to weightlifting.”

Sitting next to Gaz is 25 year old Sam Chesney.

Sam started the gym six years ago in a bid to improve his general fitness.

A previous pastime has somehow developed into an unforgiving addiction, but Sam, just like Gaz, wouldn’t have it any other way. He told us: “I did a little bit of strongman and then got into powerlifting a couple of years later.

“I’ve never really done any bodybuilding because I’m not too conscious about what I look like, but I definitely think that powerlifting has shaped my life.”

It would be wrong to rebut Sam’s comment, having observed one of his typical training regimes.
With no financial reward attached to the sport, it comes down to self-motivation, perseverance and a whole lot of love.

Fortunately for Sam, and the group he trains with in general, they have those traits in abundance.He added “We’ve got a good team that can motivate each other when we need it.

“Obviously we still have to go to work, then come and train, so it can be difficult at times.”

Questioned about his performance at the championships, Sam admitted: “I think my day went really well. I didn’t do everything I planned, but I still got silver in the 100-110 category in the open weight class.”

Certainly, there are grounds for optimism. But being such a harsh critic of himself, Sam added “I’ve got a lot of things to work on, and hopefully when the British Championships come in November, I can nail it.”

In what must have seemed like a family outing on the South coast, Sam and Gaz were joined by Kev Stuart, John Marsden and Lewis Walsh; the latter being the youngest of the entourage at 20 years old.

Two others who made waves at the seaside resort were Rob Hopkinson and James Young.

Former Olympic Gym regulars, the duo now train at Muscle Fitness 2000 in Droylsden.

Although their training facilities have changed, their ambition to reach the top of the sport hasn’t.

James secured a European Deadlift record of 272.5kg, while Rob benched 165kg for a joint European record.

Such laudable records are only achieved through hard graft and determination, yet the pair has enjoyed a rapid rise in the sport over a few short years.

“I basically got into powerlifting by recommendation” says Rob.

“I started training at home at the age of 15 with my York bench and fell in love with benching straight away.

“I couldn’t bench 40kg when I started but it soon went up, and by the time I reached 17 years old I had a reasonable bench for my age and weight.”

James’ relationship with the sport began in much the same way as Rob’s.The 22 year old said: “My Powerlifting career pretty much started because of Rob.

“In 2012 I started competing in strongman competitions and was doing event training when we met.

“From there he told me about a powerlifting competition he was doing towards the end of the year and said I should give it a go.

“We began training for it, went down to compete in it together and have both stuck at it ever since.”

Admittedly, the former Audenshaw School pupils don’t do things in half measures, and their six day training regime is testament to that statement. James Said: “Everything I do revolves around the sport, including my training, the food I eat and the time I go to sleep.”

Rob’s lifestyle pretty much shadows James’, with training sessions usually lasting between an hour and a half, to two hours. He added “I don’t have any particular diet, but I try and each food which contains lots of calories.

“I try and eat food which is good for me and not supermarket boxed food, so meats like pork, chicken, beef and steak are usually on the menu.”

A combination of self-discipline and tireless devotion has secured the lads a place in the record books.

But at such a young age, and with an undying love for the sport, the pair has no plans on taking things easy. Rob added: “I have my eyes on a bigger total every time I compete.

“My next competition will be the British Championships in November, and I’ll also be competing at the European Championships in Finland next year.”

Rob will be in good company on both occasions, as James – commonly known as Jimmy –will be making the journey with him. He concluded “Me and Rob have both got 21 weeks now until the British Championship finals.

“Next year will be my last year as a junior, and it’s been announced that the 2016 Europeans will be held in Rovaniemi, Finland, so I plan on leaving my mark in that group before I move up to open.”