Weightlifting duo make their mark
- NC Raine
Two young athletes from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band are flourishing in a sport they aspire to compete in on a provincial, or even national level. But unlike many of their peers, it’s not in hockey, football, or soccer that they’re training for.
These provincial record-setters are dedicating themselves to weightlifting.
“It’s actually a really fun sport,” said Pesim Searson, 17.
“You use every single part, every muscle of your body. It’s really demanding, but the more you do it, the more you see the results. And it’s a sport where you can just hang out with your friends.”
Searson and his friend/training-partner Leo Emond, have only been training as weightlifters for less than a year, but already they’re making significant waves in the sport on a provincial level.
At the 2023 Saskatchewan Winter Games, Emond earned gold in men’s 89 KG weightlifting, breaking provincial records for his age group, while Searson placed third.
“Seeing their potential, there’s a good chance they could be competing at a national level if they keep going at the rate they’re going,” said Mike Rogers, member of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, who has been coaching both Searson and Emond in weightlifting for the past few months.
“[Searson] is a very quick to learn all the proper weightlifting positions, and is very strong for his age. [Emond] is ridiculously strong, so we need to get him into the right positions. They both have their own strengths,” said Rogers.
Searson began training in weightlifting after he saw a poster at his school advertising the Winter Games, which at that point had no competitors representing the north in weightlifting. So he and Emond decided to give it a try. Previously, the two had been ‘powerlifting’, which entails the back squat, bench press, and deadlift, as opposed to ‘olympic weightlifting’ which comprises of two lifts: the ‘snatch’ and the ‘clean and jerk’.
The sport has been transformational for Searson, he says. Over a year ago, when he started going to the gym, Searson said he was 5’2” [157cm] and about 200 pounds. He quickly dropped 40 pounds after consistently working out. Now, Searson has grown to 6’1” and is 208 pounds, much of which is from building muscle mass, he said.
“Even a month ago, seeing the progress I’ve made. It’s really nice to see,” he said.
“Some days are difficult, and even if I don’t feel like going to the gym, I still go because I have to stay committed, and know that any workout is better than no workout. That’s the only way to keep progressing.”
Likewise for Emond, the Winter Games poster was the catalyst the brought him to weightlifting. A football player in addition to weightlifting, he said the sport has facilitated stronger mental habits, in addition to the physical aspects.
“It builds good habits. You can’t slack if you want to do well. You have to put the time and effort in,” said Emond.
“If I’m at the gym training, and I fail the weight, I think to myself, ‘I can do this, I can fix what I need to do it’. Sometimes it takes a while to get it, but it feels good when you get there.”
Weightlifting has its practical challenges as well. Without a coach in their hometown of La Ronge, Searson and Emond need to record themselves in the gym and send videos to Rogers, who is located in Saskatoon. He then sends his critiques and instructions back to the young athletes as their training,, which they do two or three times a week.
Fortunately, La Ronge has the required training facilities, but many northern communities lack the necessary facilities to training in weightlifting, while other gyms often disallow exercises where weight is dropped, said Rogers.
“Making more resources and outlets accessible for these kids who don’t have access to a gym is super important,” said Rogers.
He is currently trying to create more accessible exercise space for northern communities, and train more athletes from the north [he can be found at mrogers306 on instagram] so stories like that of Searson and Emond are no longer outliers.
“It’s a sport I think more people should get into,” said Emond. “Even at the competitions, everyone is supporting each other and wanting to hit their lifts. It really has good energy.”