The scope of Alex Fera's Olympic-style weightlifting contingent is expanding, and it's not just limited to the Greater Sudbury region.
Among the masters athletes who have enjoyed success on a provincial level, anxious to make their mark at a Canadian Championship, are a pair of lifters who must travel some distance to catch up with the crew at Northern CrossFit on Lasalle Boulevard in Sudbury.
Now 45 years old, North Bay native Dave Harding parlayed a twenty year love of mountain biking into a more diversified training regimen with CrossFit, finally looping back to a much more narrowly focused pursuit that is Olympic-style weightlifting.
Not without challenges. "Early on, it was probably the mobility, getting your body to move in the right way for lifting," noted the competitor in the 81 kg division. "Once the mobility and flexibility came, then it was more about the technique."
"That's where the coach came in."
While Harding had competed in a handful of CrossFit events, including the locally hosted Battle Beyond the Barbell, there was just something about the element of competition in his latest passion that spoke to him in a different manner entirely.
"I love the pursuit of getting better, the pursuit of perfection," he said. "I do fairly well at it, so I'm sure that's one aspect. But you never have the perfect lift, you are always chasing perfection."
"I'm just slowly getting incrementally better, and I don't want to stop. I don't want to lose what I have." The end goal has extended beyond the national boudaries, with Harding eyeing a berth in the Worlds, some day, as the ultimate achievement.
"I did not make the first round of cuts for Worlds," he explained. "My group is pretty competitive, and I'm not competitive in my group yet, not at the world level." In many cases, at the Sudbury workouts, that kind of drive is the common denominator with these more experienced athletes.
Long-time Sturgeon Falls resident Sylvie Guenette has no trouble relating. "I'm an athlete," said the full-time business owner who also enjoys the performing arts, as a musician. "I love sports and I'm very competitive."
"The high intensity training, the sweating part, getting in shape, feeling good about yourself, really just having a purpose to the workouts, at my age, is what drives me." A figure skater from the age of five, Guenette can tap into an athletic background that has included broomball, basketball, volleyball, baseball and golf.
She is nothing if not motivated. Working out initially at a gym in North Bay, she was notified that based on her lifts, she could be a Canadian Masters champion. "So I went to my first provincials and beat the record by forty pounds," she said.
There is, however, also a more holistic benefit to her love of weightlifting. "For me, this type of workout releases all of the negatives, the bad toxins I have inside," said Guenette. "This is just another outlet of me doing what I want to do with my life."
"How can you not love this sport?," she asked, rhetorically.
Competing for the first time at the World Championships in Barcelona in 2018, Guenette finished fourth, just five pounds shy of a bronze medal performance. That reach for a top three finish was, at least in part, responsible for moving her workouts to Sudbury.
"I wanted the one on one training, and I had heard of Alex," she said. "It's more motivational to be in this circle."
A circle whose scope is ever increasing, right across the north.