Yeah, OK. I was always pretty drawn towards exercising, and athletics and sports. I think I started playing hockey when I was four years old, which is not abnormal in Canada. When I got to, I think, grade 5 — I don’t know how old you are in grade 5 — like 10 or 11, that’s when my dad started letting me workout, and coaching me towards doing body weight stuff.
I did that for grade 5 and 6. In grade 7, my dad started training at a gym in Toronto called Station 7, which was owned by a guy named Gary Roberts who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. A lot of the Leafs would train there, it was a really cool environment.
I started going there, I would take the train down after school, and workout at that place. They had a lot of really great trainers. Some of them competed in Olympic weightlifting. That’s where I got my first introduction to that. I would see them doing it as that gym.
Every time I saw it, I’d be like, “I want to do that. I want to do that.” The trainers were like, “No, you can’t. Too young. We’ll wait until you have a bit better foundation.” I was pushing really hard to do that, though, because it looks so much cooler than all the other stuff that was doing in the gym. The weight training was an emphasis for me because I was a smaller guy.
I think I hit my full height in grade 6 or 7. I was 5’9″. I’m still 5’9″. Grade 7 and 8 was when people had some big growth spurts and stuff like that. I had friends or people who I was playing against who were over six-feet tall. I had to differentiate myself in a different way.
When they finally started letting me do Olympic weightlifting, that was the way I was able to do that. I took it very seriously. I had a coach who…It was actually the coach of one of the trainers at the gym who competed in Olympic weightlifting. He would only coach me if I competed in Olympic weightlifting. They took it seriously and they treated it as a sport, even if it wasn’t your main sport, they wanted you to treat as though it was.
That’s what I did. I started begrudgingly competing in weightlifting so that I could do the training for hockey. I did that for a number of years all the way until I was 18 and went off to university. I just quit all sports going into my first year of university, lying to myself saying I was going to focus on studying like everybody says.
Obviously didn’t. Had a fun time in first year, goofed around a bunch, and then started getting a little more serious in second year. Also, in second year, I was missing the athletic component of my life. I had no outlet. My whole life I was an athlete. Whether it was hockey or Olympic weightlifting, I loved competing.
I found another weightlifting coach who was close to where I was living, and start taking that very seriously. That was main sport so did weightlifting for a few years. I had some injuries, associated just with the fact that I was weak relative to the amount of weight that I could lift in weightlifting. If you look at a lot of the durable and most successful weightlifters, they’re able to squat a lot.
They have a big strength surplus over what that they can snatch in clean and jerk. You see guys like Lou, they’re are clean-and-jerking 200, 205. They’re squatting 300 kilos. Back then when my best clean was 180 kilos, I could front squat 185. Every time I had to do a heavy lift, I was crushing myself.
I had a few injuries and decided that I was just going to step back from Olympic weightlifting just to focus on the strength portion of it. A lot of people get that confused. You think of weightlifting as a strength sport, and in a lot of ways, it is. Strength is secondary to the actual skill in the sport of weightlifting.
It’s a supplement that allows you to be better at the sport just like strength training is for many other sports like football or hockey or all those other things. I was lacking in that area and just wanted to focus on it. I expected to return to weightlifting and compete in that again and that powerlifting was going to be just a temporary thing. For a while, I did compete in both.
I just really loved the sport. I loved how inclusive it was. I was still very competitive sport, but you got weightlifting meets, and I don’t know if it’s the same because I haven’t competed much Olympic weightlifting in the States. In Canada, it’s very segregated and clique-y. You got to the meet, and it’s like, “Oh, I can’t talk these people because their friends with this other gym.”
There’s a lot of that. Whereas in powerlifting, it was just a big bro-sesh. I love that aspect of it. That’s what kept me in the sport. I loved it. I loved getting stronger. I saw a lot of progress in the first…First couple of years of powerlifting, I just ran Smolov for my squat over and over again and luckily survived.
I took my squat from, I don’t know, maybe 200 kilos to 290 kilos in a pretty short period of time just focusing on squat. That was a level of progress that I had never experienced before because I’ve never had that direct focus. I think that was very attractive to me at the time and a big portion of why I’m still in it now.