With so many new lifters on the scene, and so many of the well-known lifters breaking barriers of strength, there are so many unknown outcomes for our sport in 2018. We’re taking a look at what are the top 10 most burning Powerlifting questions we can’t wait to see answered this year.

#10. Will Jennifer Thompson break her 63kg Raw world record total?

Last year world renowned 63kg lifter, most known for her untouchable bench press, Jennifer Thompson was absent from 2017’s IPF Classic World’s, allowing Ivana Horna to take the 63kg title. She then later revealed she had undergone hip surgery due to injuries which had been bothering her for years. Since she’s recovered from the surgery, she’s been able to train the lower body lifts pain free, and her squat and deadlift numbers have shot up. At the USAPL Raw Nationals, she squatted 150kg, a number she’d been chasing down for years, and deadlifted 197.5kg, to total 490kg – 4kg above her world record. In training, she’s also deadlifted 395lbs/ 179kg for a set of 7, and has benched 325lbs/145kg for a comfortable single – 3.5kg above her three-lift bench world record. Make sure you’re watching to see Jen re-claim her 63kg world championship title and see if she can set her raw total world record to new heights officially!

#9. Russel Orhii vs. Brett Gibbs at IPF Raw World’s

In 2016 we saw John Haack and Brett Gibbs go head to head in the famed ‘Battle of the 83’s’ at IPF Classic World’s, where John came away with the win after Brett couldn’t manage to pull 327.5kg. John then opted to compete at an unsanctioned international competition outside the IPF, which meant he became ineligible to compete internationally in 2017 due to the WADA’s association policy. Brett looked guaranteed to win World’s in 2017, but missed out on the championship title once again after losing grip on his second and third deadlifts, allowing Ulan Anuar to win the 83’s. Since then, Brett’s gotten back on his feet, totaling 832.5kg – 18.5kg over his official 83kg world record, at the New Zealand Record Breakers competition, where he weighed in light in the 93’s.

At the 2017 USAPL Raw National Championships, Russel Orhii took John’s place as the top 83kg lifter in the USAPL, winning the 83kg division with a massive 300.5kg unofficial world record squat, 180kg bench press, and 312.5kg deadlift, meaning he’ll be heading to World’s this year to face off against Brett. Though this performance still puts him 21kg behind Brett’s best total at <83kg, “Russwole” has been posting some awesome training numbers, and looks like he’ll continue to add kilos on his total. With Russel competing internationally for this first time at the Arnold Classic in March, we’ll see where he’s at, and just how close his battle with Brett and the other 83’s will be.

#8. Daniella Melo vs Sara Cowan for the 84kg Raw world record total?

Ielja Strik has been at the top of the 84kg class for a long time now, recently extending her world record total up to 537.5kg at the European Championships earlier this year. However, Sara Cowan and Daniella Melo are two junior 84kg lifters raising the bar as to what’s possible in the 84kg division. Daniella squatted 206.5kg at the IPF Classic World’s to beat Ielja’s long-standing world record, and then totaled 531.5kg for a junior world record – only 6kg below Ielja’s open world record. After a shaky performance at the USAPL Raw Nationals, Daniella’s had some crazy training numbers, including a 205kg x5 squat (only 1.5kg off her world record), a comfortable single on her best competition bench (120kg), and an easy 495lbs/ 224.5kg deadlift single.

Sara Cowan has also made some tremendous gains. After battling with Ielja in the open category at 2017 IPF Classic World’s and coming second, Sara had an epic performance at a CPU competition in November. Here she squatted 205kg, benched 110kg, and deadlifted 277.5kg to total 542.5kg for unofficial open deadlift and total world records. Looking ahead for this year, Daniella is set to compete at the Arnold Sports Festival next month, where she’ll likely break the open world record squat, deadlift, and total. Sara meanwhile will compete in just a few weeks at the CPU Raw Nationals, so we’ll see where both lifters are at in the lead up to 2018 IPF Classic World’s. Daniella has entered the open division to represent Team USA, so assuming Sara does the same as last year, we’ll see these two go head to head with each other and Ielja for the open 84kg title.

#7. Who will hold the 83kg Raw world record squat?

We already mentioned Brett Gibbs and Russel Orhii’s showdown which will take place at IPF Classic World’s, but what’s even more unknown is who will hold the world record squat by the end of the year. It’s still held by John Haack with his 298kg squat from 2016’s IPF Classic World’s. Russel is leading the pack, having already broken the record unofficially with 300.5kg from the USAPL Raw Nationals, which absolutely flew. Russel will be lifting at the Arnold Sports Festival so will set the bar for others, but allegedly will not be able to make it an official world record as only lifters in the Grand Prix flight can. Brett’s had his eye on the elusive 300kg+ mark for a long time. After hitting it in the gym back in December 2015, he never managed to hit it on the platform until the Reebok Record Breakers in October 2017, where he squatted 302.5kg at 86.8kg bodyweight. Having squatted 300kg in the gym once again last month, it will be very exciting to see Brett’s answer to Russel at Classic World’s.

Other than these two though, there are a few other lifts who are in with a shot of the squat record as well. From Australia, Nathan Tanis is a junior 83kg lifter who recently squatted 290.5kg with room to spare at Powerlifting Australia Raw Nationals. We’ll see him next compete at the Asia Pacific Challenge in April, and at World’s in June, so watch out for his squatting. Similarly, junior British lifter Dylan Nelson also squatted 290.5kg at the British Junior Classic in November, so is another one to look out for in with a chance at breaking the squat record.

#6. Who will win best female lifter at IPF World’s?

The best female lifter award at IPF World’s used to be a toss-up between Jennifer Thompson and Kimberly Walford. It would depend on who lifted a bit more that year, and who weighed in a bit lighter. Then at the 2016 USAPL Raw Nationals, Jennifer Millican burst on the scene, winning the 57kg division and best female lifter. After earning her spot at World’s, she squatted 174.5kg and totaled 462kg for 57kg world records in Belarus. This gave her first world championship title and a huge 542.53 Wilks for the best female award win. Meanwhile Jen Thompson was absent due to her surgery, and Kim Walford was way back with a 523.98 Wilks after a sub-par performance.

This year, things are really up in the air. Jennifer Millican is still on top of things, and will be looking to defend her 57kg and best female lifter title. Jennifer Thompson is looking stronger than ever before on all her lifts since her surgery as mentioned earlier. In a recent twist, Kimberly Walford has pulled out of competing at 2018 IPF World’s, despite having the most amazing performance at the USAPL Raw Nationals. Here, she smashed her previous best squat, deadlifted a new unofficial world record, and totaled an unofficial world record too. Going 9 for 9 with 188kg/112.5kg/246kg, Kim totaled 549kg with a 541.37 Wilks – enough to win best USAPL lifter, beating Millican’s Wilks score by only .08. This means that the main battle for best lifter will be between Jennifer Thompson and Jennifer Millican.

#5. Who will hold the 74kg Raw world record squat?

Like in the 83kg class but even more so, the 74kg world record squat is probably the most hotly contested lift this year. After Josh Hancott competed at the 2015 Arnold Classic, the 74kg squat world record sat around 260kg for a very long time, only chipped by Rabah El Fekair in late 2016. Then, at the 2017 IPF Classic World’s, unknown Japanese lifter Yoshihiro Higa seemingly came out nowhere and smashed the record with a massive 270kg – just shy of 600lbs. This was completely unheard-of territory at the time; but now, everyone’s having a stab at it.

Taylor Atwood held the record for moments before Yoshihiro squatted this, as he hit 265.5kg on his third attempt comfortably. Since then, his training has been going very smoothly, hitting 250kg/ 550lbs for comfortable doubles in training. Knowing that Taylor’s training numbers are usually quite conservative, things are looking very positive for his next competition at the Arnold, though he’ll be competing in the 83kg division. At the USAPL Raw Nationals, junior lifter RJ Hizon came fourth after a poor performance by his standard. However, RJ has since squatted 272.5kg/ 600lbs in training – 2.5kg above the world record, and will be attending the Arnold Classic alongside Taylor. Despite this, due to lifting in the SBD Pro American rather than the Grand Prix, Rj will not be able to make a 600lbs+ squat official this time around.

Mason Cabney is another talented junior 74kg lifter who unfortunately didn’t attend the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals for financial reasons. However, he performed a mock meet around the same time and squatted 595lbs/ 270kg to match the world record in training. Since then, he’s also squatted 600lbs/ 272.5kg in the gym, so watch out for him whenever he next competes. Lastly, let’s not discount Yoshihiro himself, who competed in Japan just a few days ago, and mostly impressively squatted 272.5kg in competition officially! Though this doesn’t count as a world record, it was performed in meet conditions and at the right bodyweight, so is extremely promising for when he steps on the international platform again, likely next at IPF World’s.

#4. Will Ray Williams squat 500kg Raw?

Since first claiming the super-heavyweight world record squat in 2014, we’ve seen Ray Williams unstoppably adding kilos to his record time and time again. After squatting 438kg at 2016’s IPF Classic World’s, he finally broke into the 1,000lbs+ milestone with a 456kg squat only a few months later at the USAPL Raw Nationals. He then destroyed this at the 2017 Arnold Sports Festival in March, where he squatted 465.5kg on his second attempt, and then 477.5kg/ 1052lbs on his third. This was a truly epic moment.

However since then, we’ve seen Ray struggle to extend his record any further. At IPF Classic World’s, he hit 470kg on his second attempt, clearly optimistic to hit something big afterwards, but ended up skipping his third as 470kg moved a bit too slowly. Then at the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals in October, Ray had a crack at an insane 490kg squat on his third attempt. Unfortunately it was not to be, and we saw Ray missing a squat in competition for the first time in ages. The fact he put it on the bar means that he thought it was there though, which begs the question: just how much will he squat in 2018? When we saw Blaine Sumner squat 500kg at the Arnold in 2016, we were simply blown away that someone could break into that milestone using equipment, but to think that this could be the year Ray does it raw is simply mind blowing. Having recently squatted 455kg/ 1003lbs x2 in training, we can’t wait to see what he puts on the bar at the Arnold Sports Festival in a few days, and the IPF Classic World’s in June.

#3. How will Isabella von Weissenberg fair in the 63’s?

This news was very surprising. At the beginning of the year, Isabella von Weissenberg announced that she’ll be cutting down to the 63kg weight class for IPF Classic World’s. Isabella is already a very well established 72kg lifter, currently holding the open world record squat with 196.5kg, taking bronze at IPF Classic World’s in 2017, and silver in 2016. If she manages to maintain most of her strength in her weight cut, we’d likely see Isabella challenge Jennifer Thompson for the 63kg world championship title at World’s. Recently posting a physique update, Isabella is looking lean at 70kg, so we’re sure it will be a challenge to get down in the 63kg range, so it will be very interesting to see what happens. She also recently posted a massive 190kg x2 squat PB in the gym, only 6kg behind her world record (the current 63kg world record squat is 183kg). Isabella is next competing at the Arnold Classic in March, but will do so in the 72kg category, so keep your eye out on how she does there and at World’s in June.

#2. Will Krzysztof Wierzbicki deadlift 400kg+ in international competition?

Krzysztof Wierzbicki probably became the biggest name in Powerlifting in 2017, taking the 105kg class by storm, smashing records left right and centre. Notably pulling what appeared to be a paltry 420kg in equipment at the World Games, breaking the All-time deadlift record regardless of weight class and after infamously pulling 400kg in the gym, Krzysztof competed at the European Classic Championships in March, where he deadlifted 390kg and totaled 890kg for 105kg world records which still stand today. He then had a sub-par performance at the IPF Classic World’s due to some injuries flaring up, where he “only” managed to pull 380kg and total 885kg.

Most recently, Krzysztof competed at the equipped Polish national championships, where he lifted raw, squatting 310kg (without his belt tightened), benching 200kg, and deadlifting 395kg, for a massive 905kg unofficial world record total. Coming into 2018, we know Krzysztof has his eye on making a 400kg+ deadlift an official world record, as well as a 900kg+ total. Two huge milestones. Bryce Lewis is probably the only other 105kg lifter who is close to a 900kg total, having put together 890kg at the USAPL Raw Nationals, and competing at the Arnold Classic in a few short weeks. Meanwhile no one is at all close to the 400kg deadlift mark, so we’ll have to see just how far Krzysztof can push it in 2018.

#1. Will Charles Okpoko defeat Sergey Gladkikh at 2018 IPF Classic World’s?

The 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals saw Charles Okpoko and Keith McHoney go head to head for the 66kg title. Charles, who is a well-established equipped lifter down in the raw scene, had a token qualifying total, so didn’t lift in the primetime, allowing Keith to know exactly what he’d need to beat him. After matching the world record squat with 250kg on his third, Charles went on to bench 160kg and deadlift 262.5kg for a 672.5kg total – 7.5kg behind Sergey Gladkikh’s world record total from 2017’s IPF World’s. Keith ended up winning the title, smashing a 255kg squat, 155kg bench, and 280kg for a 692.5kg total. However, Keith has decided not to compete at World’s, so we’ll now see Charles represent Team USA and go head to head with reigning 66kg champion Sergey Gladkikh.

Sergey has been pretty much untouchable since he first took part in raw World’s in 2016, also a previously established equipped lifter. In 2016, Keith McHoney came second, and in 2017, Canada’s Stephen Cascioli came second, but Sergey has always been reasonably far ahead. With Charles still new to competing raw, we can expect him to make some quick gains on his total, which will make for an epic showdown between him and Sergey for some world records and the 66kg title come June.

About the author: Ramsay Kirkhy

Ramsay holds a BSc in Psychology and is currently studying for his MSc. He is also a certified Personal Trainer with three years’ experience. Along with his studies, he has a huge passion for Powerlifting, competing in the 74kg division in Great Britain, also writing for the 9for9 Media blog.