Wed, Sep 13, 2023 4:33 PM

Powerlifting duo moving on up


Peter Jones

Two powerlifting rookies are certainly living up to their gym’s name.

Cyril Heywood and Riley Neal, both out of Blenheim’s Ascension Gym, have been lifting competitively for just nine months but are already near the top of their game.

Ascension means “moving up” – which is exactly what Cyril and Riley did at the recent SA3 Auckland Regional Powerlifting Champs.

In his first competitive outing, 32-year-old Cyril competed in the open men’s under 125kg class and blew away the opposition, winning the deadlift, squat and overall titles.

Richard de Reeper, owner, founder and coach at Ascension, which opened in December 2020, also competed in Auckland. He described Cyril’s progression as “unreal, absolutely phenomenal”.

“It took him about 16 weeks to hit a 300kg deadlift in training. In the gym he has actually pulled within the top 10 deadlifts ever managed in New Zealand.

“All going well, barring injuries or mishaps at the nationals, he is looking good to match, if not beat, the heaviest deadlift in powerlifting in New Zealand … and the world record total [across the three lifts] which stands at 972.5kg.”

Cyril is also on track to reach a combined total of 1000kg. If he does, he will become just the fourth New Zealander to reach that milestone and will become the lightest.

His personal bests in competition this far are a 350kg deadlift, a 200kg bench and a 310kg squat.

Richard said he never expected such a rapid improvement from the former bodybuilder and Brazilian jiu-jitsu exponent.

“Looking at him in the early days I thought ‘yeah, you’ll be good to take a couple of records in a year or two’, but the bastard’s gone and done it within a year. That is so awesome.”

Riley was also undertaking his first competitive outing and “blitzed” his opposition while qualifying for the forthcoming nationals. The 15-year-old MBC student came away from Auckland with three out of a possible four national records and was second overall in the junior category.

His 138kg squat was a national record and just a couple of kg off a world record for his age and weight class. His 150kg deadlift broke the national record by 10kg while his total of 353kg was a new national record.

“It is hard to believe we only started working together nine months ago,” said Richard.

“Riley was quite a surprise … when he first signed up I didn’t think there was much to it, but he just kept constantly chipping away. I said you could have a good shot at that and, being the good man he is, he took a swing and hit it.”

The Ascension lifters compete in the Global Powerlifting Committee [GPC] Federation, which is active in around 40 countries worldwide.

Richard says powerlifting is rapidly growing in popularity.

“People come in [to the gym] and just want to get a bit stronger, build some muscle and lose a bit of fat. Then, as they start training, they gain all this muscle and all of a sudden they are just flinging tin. It is unreal.

“You say to them ‘that was 200kgs man’ and they are like ‘oh, yeah’. Then before you know it 200 turns to 300 and they are just absolute animals.”

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