Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay strength athlete wins world championship title

A Thunder Bay, Ont. strength athlete is celebrating a big win at an international competition.

Ben Thompson lifted 1185 pounds, besting the competition in several categories

When the Silver Dollar World Deadlift Championship was moved to an online format, Thunder Bay, Ont. strength athlete Ben Thompson decided competing would be a good distraction from the 'doom and gloom' of the pandemic. (Ben Thompson)

A Thunder Bay, Ont. strength athlete is celebrating a big win at an international competition.

Ben Thompson recently competed in the Silver Dollar World Deadlift Championships, an extreme strength event sanctioned by the World Deadlifting Council. 

Signing up seemed like a nice distraction from the "doom and gloom" of the pandemic, Thompson said, and he thought he would fare well in the competition. He ended up exceeding his own expectations, and realizing a lifelong dream. 

Thompson lifted 1185 pounds in the men's 242 category, the winning lift in that category. He also lifted the most in the men's overall category by body weight and weight lifted, clinching the title of "Extreme World Champion Biggest Lift."

"It's always been a dream of mine to win a world championship," Thompson said, recalling past competitions where he came close with 2nd or 3rd place finishes. "So it's nice to kind of get that monkey off my back of winning a world championship title."

The international event was originally planned to take place in Scotland, but was instead held virtually in April, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual format of the event allowed competitors to submit over the month of April, and Thompson's winning lift was actually his second submission. His first was a lift of 1130 pounds, he explained. However, he then got wind of another competitor from the U.S. who had one-upped him.

"I said, well not on my watch, so I moved up to 1185 pounds," he said.

Thompson, who's been training since the age of 15, says he trains four days a week for about three hours, but also has to constantly monitor other aspects of his life, such as diet, to compete. (Ben Thompson)

Competitors in the virtual competition had to check off a long list of requirements to ensure the validity of the entries, including following precise instructions for the set up of their location, and submitting a video that panned all around the athlete. "So there's no trickery," he said. 

A training partner joined him to help with those aspects, as well as to ensure his own safety in a sport that does put serious strain on the body.

"When you're doing a silver dollar deadlift your blood pressure can get out of control, and you can also lose a lot of oxygen quickly and end up passing out, so you need another person there in case you go lights out, and bonk your head on something, or whatever," he said.

Thompson said the sport does take a toll, and requires constant training and attention to diet, but for him, it's all worth it.

"It's all about just the passion for lifting heavy weights and being as strong as you can," he said. "And for me, it's teaching my kids something. You know, my goal for them is to find their passion in life and be as good at whatever they choose as they can be."

Canadian success may inspire others

For a Canadian competitor do so well at the international competition was not necessarily expected, said Blair Clow, North American president of the World Deadlift Council, but it was heartening for those trying to grow the sport at home.

The fact that the competition was held virtually made it easier for people in North America to compete, Clow said, and a number of Canadians had good showings. 

"I think this competition opened up doors for Canadians to compete, and show that we have athletes that can definitely hold their own in the world stage in all sorts of strength sports. And I'm very proud of what Ben has achieved, what he has achieved to make the sport grow," he said.

"It's just great."

Clow said he hopes Thompson will be able to break the all-time world record on Canadian soil next year. He said plans are in the works to host the competition in B.C.