Bring Home The Gold Tameside powerlifters are hoping to make an impact at the British Bench Press Championships this weekend
Monday 9th January 2017 @ 10:01 by Mark Phillip

Two Tameside powerlifters are confident of claiming silverware at the British Bench Press Championships this weekend.

Jo Whiteley and Connor Burkhill, who both train at Olympic Gym in Ashton, are competing at the same event which is being held in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, on Saturday and Sunday.

The pair will travel eastwards brimming with confidence as Jo, 46, became the North West open age champion in November, while Connor, 18, won the 66kg class.

Jo (left) with team mate Kim Cowell.

This weekend will mark Jo’s fifth British Championship, having previously been British Bench Press Champion once and British Powerlifting Champion twice.

Competing in the same event twice this weekend, Jo is openly confident about bringing home the gold. Speaking to Reporter Sport, she said: “I am hoping to come home with a 4th British title and hopefully an invitation to compete at the IPF World Bench Press Championships in Lithuania in May.

“As ever, I am competing with my Pennine Strength team of Kim Cowell and Maria Andrews and they are both in the running to bring home some silverware.

“This will be our first time competing as a team at a national event so we are really excited.

“The support of a team and having your coach with you at a competition takes so much of the stress out of the day and we know we can rely on each other, come what may.”

Connor Burkhill will also be looking to add to his growing list of achievements

While many have been enjoying the festivities over Christmas, Jo has maintained her training regime in the hope of bringing her very best to the platform this weekend.

Reflecting on her endeavours over December, she said: “Training has been mixed. While I have hit personal bests in both raw and equipped bench recently (77.5kg and 107.5kg respectively), an old shoulder niggle has re-surfaced and we have had to work around it carefully.

“Luckily, my coach, Tom Martin, is well versed in these problems and has steered me through it brilliantly.

“Even over Christmas, I didn’t miss any training, maintaining 6 days a week right the way through.”

Jo will be competing in two disciplines of the sport over the weekend – raw and equipped.

Highlighting the difference between the two, she said: “Raw is as you would expect: wristwraps and belts are allowed but no other supportive equipment.

“Equipped means that you can use an instrument of torture known as a bench shirt.

“This is a very tight, constricting garment that allows you to handle much heavier weights than you would otherwise but it’s a difficult technique to master and I’m a relative newbie in this discipline.”

While Jo is very much focused on her own lifts this weekend, she’s also excited to see renowned paralympian, Ali Jawad, competing at the same event in the able bodied format for the very first time.

Despite being born without legs, the 27-year-old, from Lebanon, took up powerlifting when he was just 16.

Since then, the established figure has featured in several major competitions, including the 2016 Rio Olympics where he secured a silver medal in the men’s 59kg class.

Renowned paralympian, Ali Jawad

Commenting on the inspirational story behind Jawad’s success, Jo said: “Competing at the same competition as Ali is fantastic.

“Not only is he a source of inspiration but it also raises the profile of the event massively.”

Connor is equally as confident about taking his form from 2016 into his first competition of 2017.

Commenting on his training, he said: “Training is good at the moment. My bench press has gone up a considerable amount in the last 12 weeks or so.

“The aim for this competition is to finally bench 132.5KG at 66KG bodyweight (just over 2x bodyweight).

“I think I have been capable of this feat for some time, but have failed a few competitions in a row now for different reasons.

“This time I feel I am capable of benching much more but will stick with the plan to finally get the milestone ticked off.”