By Erik Willis
Now that its been a little while since 2018 Classic Worlds I wanted to write a bit about my experience. Lets start with 2018 Nationals in Calgary.
Going into the meet my back was feeling kind of off. I have been having a lot of issues with my SI and imbalances and they started to flare up just before the meet. All my squats looked and felt uneven with my left side having the tendency to dip on the way up. This led to me missing my 3rd attempt squat. Bench went great and I hit a National Record of 230kg on my third attempt. Going into deadlifts I had failed a warm up in the back room. Not the best situation but I know from the past that if I get amped up enough I can will weight up even though my back doesn’t like it. I managed to pull about 320kg and maintain my position for the win. I was coming back to Calgary for Worlds!
Spent a lot of time seeing physio and chiros to try and get my back to behave so that I can could train. For the most part everything during training was moving well, except that time my wrists snapped back, and I dumped 385lbs across my chest. Not too many people know this happened as I didn’t want anyone to count me out. Now I was training through back problems for squats and deadlifts and my chest was bruised from dropping weight on me. Needless to say, not a lot of weight was being moved at this time.
My coach Austyn had me do a lot of pin presses to minimize any further injury or pain from touching my chest, though I did still feel a fair bit of discomfort while pressing. At my next visit to the chiro he poked at me a little bit and said I should be fine. Good enough for me! After a couple weeks training resumed as normal, moving similar weights pre-injury. All was good going into Worlds, and I was getting excited! Looking at the nominations and knowing what people had hit at previous Worlds I knew I was in a better position than my 4th place nomination indicated.
After landing in Calgary the Thursday of the meet, I had some concerns about my back. It had mostly been holding up which is good but wanted to be proactive. Went to go see the Team Canada Chiro Jill to get checked up on and she did a bit of work on it to make sure everything seemed okay. With this out of the way I was feeling pretty good. Weight was on point, and I had to get ready mentally. I knew if I was going to win it would come down to the last deadlift. A position I have been in before and succeeded in pulling.
Day of the meet I show up to the venue and am in awe at how big some of these guys are. Weigh ins went smooth as I was under the night before and even weighed in light! Little did I know this would play to my advantage big time. After weighing in I went and ate as much food as I could to fuel back up and then back to the venue to warm up and check on the opener situation. Some of the openers seemed absolutely insane, a 370kg opening squat and a 350kg opening squat. I just thought to myself I am just going to do what I can because I can’t compete against those kinds of numbers yet.
The 370kg opener was dropped but the 350kg opener stayed in place, I won’t go into what happened with that, but it moved me from a projected 4th or 5th based on openers up a spot. As squats moved on I hit my attempts, not worrying what others have hit. By the end of squats there were 2 bomb outs and we were moving on to bench.
Bench I was able to make up some ground as going into it I was ranked second, so it allowed me to make up some placing in light of my 4th place squat. By the end of the bench I had secured the silver medal going 3/3 and 6/6 on the day so far. Everything was going perfectly. I was slowly moving up the ranking and I believe I was projected 3rd after bench.
Warming up for deadlifts I was a little concerned because my SI area was feeling tight like it had in the past when I failed weights I’ve repped out before. My opener was set at 320kg and I started to have some doubt about keeping it that high. Next thing I know Avi and Matt are asking me if I was comfortable moving up my opener 2.5kg. You are probably wondering why change it by such a little amount. There is actually a lot of strategy in doing so.
The two men above me in the standings were opening with the exact same weight as me and because my lot number was lower I would be lifting first. This is a disadvantage as the coaching staff would have to make a guess of what my competitors would be going up to. We needed to be in the driver’s seat because I was coming from behind and needed to know how much of an increase I needed to make from first to second. So by moving my opener up at the last minute it allowed them to know what kind of jumps my competitors were making so I can match it.
At this point all doubt in my head about if my back was going to hold up disappeared. I didn’t work hard for 6 years to just let this opportunity pass me with negative self talk. It was time for me to go and hit my opener and it moved well enough. Nothing that would cause any more doubt in my mind. Both my competitors hit theirs as well and moved up 15kg and 20kg. The Canadian coaching staff put in a 15kg jump to match Lithuania in second place as 20kg was a little too aggressive. So my second attempt was 337.5kg and I went out and hit it. Too my surprise Lithuania it seemed Lithuania took too much of a jump trying to battle it out with Poland for the Gold and missed. Hitting my 2nd attempt deadlift moved up to 2nd place in the standing behind Poland. Avi put in a high third attempt in order to ensure I still had position. We both knew whatever I needed to go for the Gold was going on that bar. With my 3rd attempt higher then Poland’s we just waited to see what I was going to need to pull. Would it be 360kg or would it be 352.5kg?
In the end the gentleman from Poland missed his third attempt opening the door for me to hit a small 2.5kg deadlift PR for the Gold in Deadlift, and the first Open Classic Gold in CPU history. At this point there is little doubt that I was going to miss this. I was telling myself I don’t miss, I didn’t come here to lose. I stormed out onto the platform with the Home Country crowd cheering louder than I’ve ever heard at a powerlifting meet. Whole family sitting in the front row cheering me on. I reach down, set my grip, and pull with everything I had. The bar flew up, locked it out, and got the down command. I put the bar down and stumbled back waiting to see the lights. 3 Whites! I ran towards Avi and jumped, and for some reason he decided to jump too, resulting in a ball of 120kg lads on the floor. If you haven’t seen the video I recommend you look for it.
Has anything been different since winning Worlds? I got a few hundred more Instagram followers. SBD Canada added me to their Elite Team. Been asked to be on a podcast. Handed out medals at a meet. Though largely everything is the same. I still train by myself in the basement. I still get coached by Austyn. I am still sponsored by the same companies that supported me long before I became World Champion. Most importantly my desire to be better and stronger hasn’t changed either.