Townsend, Townsend, I’m gonna squat a fuckin thousand (to the tune of Juicy J’s “Bounce It”)

The Open National team Men and Women took home Team Awards this year. At the helm of both teams was new head coach James Townsend. James has been an assistant coach for the USA National Team for years. He has paid his dues, put in the time, and now leads the greatest powerlifting team on the planet. Watching James in action is refreshing. He cares only about his lifters and their performance. He gives everything to his team and his athletes. James speaks softly but he carries a big stick, just my kind of guy. The USA National Team has a bright future with James carrying the torch.

 

Knuck if you buck (raw 1k)

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For the thousand or so people in attendance on the final day of Raw Nationals 2016, this moment has been burned in their memories for life. A man walked out 1,000 pounds and squatted it RAW. Ray Williams is our first true superstar, every time Ray approaches the bar the room perks up. Eyes glisten with awe and shivers go down your spine. Ray has taken powerlifting viral in 2016, and his 1,000 pound squat was a moment that reached far beyond the confines of our little niche sport. The videos that spread of Ray’s lift soared well over 100 million cumulative views. National news organizations shared the story of this Alabama man’s triumph over gravity, and more people discovered USA Powerlifting in one fell swoop than ever before. I was one of the lucky ones. I got to witness this lift first hand. I will never forget it as long as I live.

 

World Games oh muh GAWD

Charles Okpoko will represent USA Powerlifting at the 2017 World Games this summer!

Charles Okpoko will represent USA Powerlifting at the 2017 World Games this summer!

The World Games is truly the Pinnacle of Powerlifting. This year we made history by having 9 lifters automatically qualify for the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. This event is as close to the Olympics as a powerlifter can get. Perhaps one day we will see powerlifters competing under the Olympic rings, but until then we have the World Games. 9 USA Powerlifting athletes will journey across the globe next year to represent the United States and the sport of Powerlifting on the global stage alongside 34 other sports and thousands of athletes in front of tens of thousands of spectators.

 

Krzysztof Wierzbicki – Raw Worlds Warrior

Powerlifters are wired differently than normal people. In fact, powerlifters are a completely different breed of athlete all together. It takes years of dedication and perseverance to compete at the highest levels of the IPF. A key function of competing at a high level in this sport is pain tolerance. One must endure an incredible amount of pain to reach the top of the mountain. But what we saw Krzysztof do this June, was on a whole new level of pain tolerance and perseverance.

Prior to IPF Classic Worlds, Wierzbicki sustained a hip injury. When it came time for the meet it was unclear if we would see him take the platform. But that day Krzysztof took the platform and fought the good fight. He limped to the bar and even re-injured himself on his 3rd squat. He bench pressed 3 successful attempts, but most impressively he deadlifted more than anyone else in his class, and tied with Ray Williams and Mohamad Bouafia for the heaviest deadlift of the entire competition; 360kgs/793lbs.

Wierzbicki could barely walk to the bar, yet he took 9 attempts even attempting to pull for the outright win in his class that day. What would have sidelined anyone else only drove Krzysztof to compete harder and not give up. Powerlifters are special people, and Wierzbicki is a warrior amongst warriors.

 

Mikhaylo Bulanyy – Age is but a number

Mikhaylo Bulanyy is no stranger to international competition. He has won 4 IPF Open World Championships, and added a Classic World Championship to his accolades this June. Most impressively he did this at 41 years old. This made Mikhaylo the oldest IPF competitor to win an Open Classic World Championship at Classic Worlds.

 

Bryce Krawczyk – We roll deep

The 105kg class in the Raw Powerlifting ranks of the IPF has arguably the deepest competition in the world. There were 5 men that could have taken the World Championship at this event; Eli Burks, Zalim Kuvambayev, Stephen Manuel, Sofiane Belkesir, and Bryce Krawczyk. The top 4 finishers were separated by a slim margin and the final placings were not decided until the final deadlifts.

This year the silver medal went to Bryce Krawczyk of Canada in his first ever IPF appearance. Bryce’s final deadlift took him from 5th place to the silver medal position. Bryce’s first IPF performance was an incredible showing for a newcomer. With the likes of Manuel, Burks, Belkesir, Kumyambayev, and the yet to compete at IPF Worlds Bryce Lewis in the 105 class, Krawczyk has added his name to the list of lifters to watch out for. The 105kg class in Minsk Belarus is surely going to be one that comes down to the wire.

 

Ana Rosa Castellain – Don’t call it a comeback

Ana Rosa became one of a few individuals who have won both an Open, and Classic World Championship this year after winning Classic Worlds at 84kgs and Open Worlds at 72kgs. This historic performance was not Castellain’s first IPF victory, she has been a champion before.

After a heartbreaking turn of events in 2015 following a car wreck, Ana Rosa was sidelined for most of the year. After a quick recovery from her accident Ana Rosa was back doing what she loved; competing in the IPF. This year saw Ana Rosa defy the odds by not only returning to competition, but to winning at the highest level of powerlifting in the world.

 

Wei-Ling Chen – Fortitude personified

This November IPF Hall of Famer Wei-Ling Chen of Chinese Taipei made the powerlifting world breathe a collective sigh on her behalf. Calling for a World Record squat of 463lbs on her third attempt made the entire room light up. A 103lb woman squatting 4.5 times bodyweight? Historic.

What happened next went viral. Chen had to walk out her squat 3 times until finally getting the squat command on the final walkout. She grooved the squat perfectly and stood up with it. 3 white lights and a new World Record for the living legend. This is what powerlifting is about.

 

Jaroslaw Olech – Legendary

It is difficult to describe the legend and strength that is Jaroslaw Olech to those that are new to powerlifting. If you do not know this name, please google it and learn a bit of powerlifting history before completing this article, you need to know about him.

Jaroslaw once again showed the world why the name “Olech” is so renowned in IPF powerlifting at Open Worlds in November. Olech Squatted 810lbs and totaled 1973lbs at just 163lbs bodyweight. Jaroslaw Olech has not lost a powerlifting competition since 2001. He has won 14, yes 14 IPF Open World Championships. He has won even more European Championships, and he has won the World Games in 2009 and 2013.

 

Countless meals, phone calls, messages, emails, sleepless nights.

The greatest part of 2016 was not the lifting, it wasn’t he records, it wasn’t the historic growth and performances; it was the people. USA Powerlifting is a family. This year I saw you all more times than I saw my own family. I spent more time talking to, working with, and laughing with this dysfunctional family than I did my own mother and father. I know this is the case for many more people than just myself. It is evident that the people make this sport truly special. When the dust settles and our careers are over, the only thing that will remain is the relationships we built and the friendships we forged in the brotherhood and sisterhood of iron.

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I am fortunate to play a large roll in USA Powerlifting’s marketing. I also have a close relationship to all our athlete’s. This year I spend hundreds of hours promoting powerlifting, talking to athletes from all walks of life, devising strategies and concepts that worked out, or sometimes didn’t. I made mistakes, I had some big successes. Most of all, I had the time of my life. The countless huge, smiles, drinks, meals shared, and friendships made stronger are the highlight of my 2016.