The powerlifters from Portage la Prairie left to right - Jocelyn Espenell, Melissa Penner, Paige Kernot, Jo-Anne Clark-Gillespie, Megan Swidnicki. Dave Beakley, a coach, is in the back. (submitted photo)
There’s some serious strength in Portage la Prairie.
A group of women from Portage la Prairie has been dabbling in the powerlifting circuit for a couple years now, and Megan Swidnicki and Paige Kernot are both heading to the to the Canadian Powerlifting Union (CPU) Nationals next month.
“I had been to the weight room for years and was drawn to strength training and I was nudged into it by Vince Green, a Portage lifter who is also going to nationals as well,” says Swidnicki, coach of the lifting group. “After I had gotten involved some of my clients from Portage came out to watch my first event at Southport and from there a lot of the ladies wanted to get involved in to see what they could do.”
Swidnicki official formed the group in the summer of 2016 after competing in her first powerlifting competition held at Southport in June of 2016. She then recruited some ladies to join her in the sport, including Portagers Jo-Anne Clark-Gillespie, Paige Kernot, Melissa Penner and Jocelyn Espenell.
After a good summer of training, the entire group competed at the Manitoba Powerlifting event held in Winnipeg in September 2016. It was a strong showing from the girls as many attained personal records, while Kernot actually set national records in bench and deadlift in her sub-junior category. The group continued to meet throughout the winter and Kernot and Espenell, along with new member Courtney Laing, competed in another meet at the Brickhouse Gym in Winnipeg in February 2017.
Next up for the ladies was the Manitoba Powerlifting Association (MPA) Provincials where each member competed. Swidnicki, Kernot, and Clark-Gillespie all qualified for Canadian Powerlifting Western championships which were held in Winnipeg this past September. Clark-Gillespie was unable to compete but Swidnicki and Kernot both qualified for Canadian Powerlifting Union (CPU) Nationals which will be in Calgary in February.
“I really feel that Kernot and Swidnicki both have very real shots at medaling at the national competition,” says Clark-Gillespie. “The sport has exploded in recent years and we all have a lot of fun in it. People were shocked when we all showed up at one competition and were the top competitors in our classes.”
The group is still meeting occasionally with everyone training from time to time. There are now a few more Portage ladies who are very interested in joining the family of female powerlifters. The ladies are hoping more girls will step up and join their team to have an even bigger representation of powerful Portage female lifters.
Powerlifting consists of three disciplines including deadlift, squat and bench press. Paige and Swidnicki will both be lifting at nationals on February 21st.