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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
A powerlifting passion from an unexpected source
by Randy Pascal

At a glance, powerlifting might be the last athletic pursuit you might associate with Sophie Démoré – yet that is exactly the direction in which the diminutive 20 year old former figure skater and hockey player has launched herself.

And launch she does. “When I get into something, I’m all on board,” said the graduate of Ecole Secondaire catholique Champlain recently. The eldest of two girls in the family, Démoré had always enjoyed her time in the gym, in the weight-room.

But it was a failed start-up effort at Collège Boréal that would ultimately bring her to the point of currently preparing for the national championships in February – and that after only a year or so in the sport.

“Boréal was talking about starting a powerlifting club last year and I was super intrigued,” she said. “They never actually went through with the team, so I decided to take it into my own hands and found a coach, a friend.”

“I had no plans of competing, at all,” Démoré added. “After three months of training, I saw an opportunity (to compete) and I took it.” In fact, there was a fair degree of thoughtfulness in her decision. With an initial goal simply the get stronger, the current Fitness and Health student at the home of the Vipères could have easily pursued the body building stream, or perhaps Olympic style weightlifting.

She had her reasons for bypassing both. “On social media, it’s all about how you look,” she said. “It’s such a big deal that it kind of messes with your mind a little bit. I tried to stay away from bodybuilding, lifting more for the fun of it, but I always wanted to lift heavier and heavier and push myself. That’s what was fun for me.”

“That’s why powerlifting looked super cool to me,” she continued. “It’s related to strength, but not looks.” As for the Olympic style option, Démoré countered with a realistic, if not slightly humourous, self-assessment. “Olympic weightlifting has always kind of freaked me out a little bit,” she explained. “Anything overhead is scary. I’m so clumsy, I feel like I would drop the bar on me.”

Initially, she would tap-in to acquaintance Pat Boileau to guide her through the early months, gradually reaching a stage where she would seek out powerlifting training specialist Justin Reeson from Ottawa. “Powerlifting training is super specific, but you can do so many different programs – linear or non-linear programs,” stated Démoré.

“For me, as a powerlifter, it’s super important to be specific to my competition lifts when I’m training – squat, bench press and dead lift.” Entering her very first event back in February of this year, the local lifter admitted she jumped in almost on a whim, with no real research and certainly no expectations.

She weighed in 0.8 kg above the 63-71kg weight class, forcing her to match up with women ranging up to 84 kilograms. “I went to Ottawa to see if I even liked it,” she said. “It was kind of a spur of the moment, just to see what was going on, and I really, really liked it.”

“I made so many friends at my first competition that I still keep in touch with now, making more friends every competition. It’s so supportive. You think that you are competing against people, so they’re not going to cheer you on. Actually, everybody cheers for you. Even if you are competing against somebody, you still want them to get the lift.”

The epiphany of that moment quickly took hold. “For the second competition, we decided to actually take care of my weight a little bit, so I went down to 63 kg,” said Démoré. ‘Because I am five foot nothing, I can drop a little more, and it would make me more competitive in my weight class, so we went down to 57 kg, which is around 125 pounds.”

Interestingly, tipping the scales somewhat lighter did not come at the expense of new personal best lifts. “I thought it would be super hard, but my coach is good at what he does, and he plans my nutrition as well,” she said. “I didn’t lose any strength while I was losing weight. We took it super slow."

For the record, Démoré currently boasts PB’s of 121 pounds (bench press), 253 pounds (squat) and 314 pounds (dead lift). “I like all of them, but I would say that the bench press is my most challenging, because my upper body is just not as strong as my lower body.” Time will flatten the curve of improvement, but for now, Démoré is establishing new record lifts at virtually every competition she enters.

That certainly came in handy as she targeted a first place finish in her weight class at the Provincial Championships in September. “We were chasing an athlete all day,” she recalled. “She had us by body weight and a slightly higher lift weight.” Having already matched her dead lift personal best of 286 (lbs), Démoré would instruct officials to increase her total to 314, a weight sufficient to finish atop the podium.

“A 12 kg jump or more, you just wouldn’t see that in the gym,” she said. But at the competition, you see and hear the crowd, you see the bar, and you know you’ve just got to hit it.” Hit it she did, safely earning a berth at the Canadian Powerlifting Union National Championships next February in Calgary.

Local product Sophie Démoré will indeed be there, even if she doesn’t quite look the part, at least not at a glance.

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