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Jo takes bronze at World Bench Press Championships
Monday 12th June 2017 @ 12:25 by Mark Phillip

An Ashton powerlifter has added to her long list of achievements after returning from the IPF World Bench Press Championships with a bronze medal.

Jo Whiteley, who trains at Olympic Gym in Ashton, secured third place in the prestigious event, which was held in Lithuania in May.

Despite being faced with some stiff competition in the form of a Lithuanian and Japanese lifter, Jo managed to overcome the odds and claim not only a bronze medal, but an English record and a competition PB as well.

Jo, 47, said she was delighted to return with a bronze medal after months of ‘brutal’ training. Speaking to Reporter Sport, she said: “The top two competitors were miles ahead of everyone else so the battle was always going to be for third place and the bronze medal.

“My main rival was a Lithuanian lady who was heavier on bodyweight than me, which meant that I only needed to match her lifts in order to beat her.

“I set my opening lift at 120kg, which was the same as the Lithuanian, but just before going out I notice that she had increased her opener to 125kg which put the pressure on.

“I went out for my 120kg and pressed it beautifully, which not only gave me a huge sense of relief, but helped me to a 7.5kg competition PB as well”.

As tensions mounted, both Jo and the Lithuanian upped their game and increased the weight to 125kg.

Successful lifts followed, leaving Jo with an opportunity to push her opponent beyond her capabilities. She said: “The Lithuanian put 132.5kg in for her third and we followed suit.

“My coaches put my third attempt up to 135kg in order to pressure the Lithuanian into attempting 137.5kg and it worked perfectly.

“I went out for 135kg which would have been a huge PB and very nearly got it, but unfortunately it went back a little too far and hit the racks.”

Having done all she could on the platform, Jo’s fate was now in the hands of her opponent.

But after a few minutes of crippling anxiety, she was finally declared a bronze medallist, as the Lithuanian failed her lift. She said: “It was such an emotional moment and I admit that I shed a tear in the back but managed to sort myself out before going out to the podium and receiving my medal.

“It was a 12.5kg competition PB, an English record and a bronze medal at the World Championships.

“I’m really proud of my perseverance and of my performance on the day – The GB coaches were brilliant and their strategy was spot on.”

Despite having just returned from a major championship with prestigious silverware, Jo has her sights on even more.

In fact, she is set to compete in the Lancs and Cheshire Championships this weekend, before heading to Spain in October for the European Bench Press Championships. Looking ahead to the events, she said: “I am competing in a full power competition – squad, bench and deadlift – on Saturday in the Wirral.

“It’s just a local competition, so nothing too stressful.

“I’m then competing in the European Championships, where I’ll be working hard to try and improve my position from the Worlds.

“I haven’t worn a bench shirt since the World Championships and I’m itching to start training again after the Lancs & Cheshire as I think I have a lot more in me.”

Having soared to new heights in recent years, Jo heaped praise on those who made it possible. “I’m lucky to have such a fantastic coach in Tom Martin” said Jo.

“Tom was brilliant in the lead up to the competition, identifying positives in every session, constantly encouraging me to persevere and keep working at it, and tweaking my technique to improve my form.

“Without that level of support, I just couldn’t have done it.”

Training and coaching aside, Jo’s success is also dependent on a number of loyal sponsors. She said: “I’m really lucky to have found two brilliant sponsors which help enormously with this.

“J B Nutrition is a meal prep service in Glossop, and James is a trained chef as well as a nutritionalist and he provides balanced nutritious meals for me which means I can get home from work, do my training and have a really good meal at the end without having to worry about shopping or cooking.

“I’m also sponsored by City Therapy in Manchester and I go in every week for trigger point therapy, myofascial release and general sports massage to keep me moving and training.

“City Therapy have helped me manage a shoulder injury and have kept me lifting despite it.

“Without their support, I wouldn’t have made it nearly as far as I have.”