Five members of a Co Armagh gym picked for NI power lifting team at Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand
and live on Freeview channel 276
The lifters, Annette Forker, Niamh Carey, Toby Clarke, Elisa Solarska and Patrick Mulholland are jetting off in November and are self-funding their trip.
Aged from 24 to 56, they all belong to Focus Gym in Portadown and are proud to be representing the country in power lifting.
All must pay for their own travel and accommodation and are seeking help from the public to get to New Zealand.
Toby Clarke (28) is from Tandragee. He said: “I’ve been training for and competing in power Lifting since 2018. I made the Commonwealth team back in 2019 where I competed in St Johns in Newfoundland, Canada. I loved that competition and so after that experience, I set myself the goal of qualifying for the next Commonwealths in New Zealand in 2021, however, Covid pushed that back to this year. When I got the email to say I was selected I was ecstatic, it made all of the long, lonely training sessions isolated from training partners and friends over multiple lockdowns worth it.
“Also, while over lockdown, I was studying for my MSc and am due to graduate soon. I work as a personal trainer in Focus where I help everyday people become fitter and healthier while still enjoying the things they love.
"It’s unusual to have a gym with more than one athlete that trains there to be selected for such a high profile competition so to have five selected for this games, and others selected for other high profile power lifting competitions is testament to the environment that is found at Focus.”
Patrick Mulholland (24) from Portadown has been training for six years and power lifting since 2018. He said: “I’d say it was the positive atmosphere and the community that resides within gyms that got me hooked, then the rewards that came with having an active lifestyle, I made new friends, I had more energy, my confidence exploded! It’s a surreal experience to be in the position to represent our country and I hope to do it proud!
"I’m very proud to say I make a living off helping others become their best selves training people not only to be physically stronger but also mentally stronger through building habits that can change someone’s lives forever both in and outside the gym.”
Lurgan woman Annette Forker will be 56 when she competes in New Zealand. She only started power lifting aged 52 and is a mum to two girls and Granny Netty to two boys. She said: “I have NI bench record for my class and hope to improve on it in November.
"After competing in Commonwealth in 2019 and getting a gold and three silver my biggest dream has been to compete in at least one more commonwealth competition. I have worked as a dental nurse in a Church place dental for over 30 years.”
Niamh Carey (28) from Rathfriland said she turned to power lifting as a new challenge after losing five stone in body weight. She revealed: “My first power lifting competition was in February 2020. I have competed three times and recovered from a fairly serious injury since then so I was very surprised to be selected for the Commonwealth team.
Niamh, who is a lead Mechanical Engineer and CAD Manager at AJ Power Limited in Craigavon, said: “My family and friends are understandably very proud of my selection as they can see the hard work I have put in to get to this stage.
"Really I think we are all still learning about the sport given the fact I am still relatively new to this. I train early in the morning before heading to work. When not working or power lifting, I can normally be found by the sea. On top of it with my paddleboard or below it scuba diving!”
Eliza Solarska (27) is a legal senior associate at PwC. She said: “I have always been a person that goes to the gym but, previously, the gym was a tool to lose weight. After completing the Paris Marathon in 2018 I have hired a personal trainer around 2019 to help bring a little bit more structure around my 9-5, and my mindset shifted to seeing exercise as a way to get stronger not to punish myself. In 2020 I have signed up for my first rookie power lifting competition and I was hooked ever since! My family came to every single competition I signed up to.”
The group must fund everything such as flights, accommodation, travel, food, kit. They have been running fundraising events like raffles and quiz nights and have another few events lined up in the coming weeks like a Power Lifting seminar on October 8 and Halloween Party on October 29 which are being held in the gym and are open to everyone of all ages and abilities on November 21 to get acclimatised.
The games themselves start on November 28 running until December 4. They hope to raise £5,000 to help with the cost of accommodation, transportation and food while out there and covering any miscellaneous items like visas and kit etc. They have set up a Go Fund Me link so anyone from the general public can help out with funds.
Toby said: “All of us appreciate the current economic climate makes donating money difficult but we are so appreciative of each and every person who has donated whatever they could to help us get to Auckland so far - every little really does help.”