The CUPLC presence could be felt at yet another year of BUCS, with members turning up as referees, platform crew, table crew, and of course as lifters and handlers.

Day 1

The first day of BUCS saw the U47, U52, and U57 women take to the platform in the morning, with the U59 and U74 men in the afternoon. Vikki Li would be competing in the U52 class, with a personal goal of a 290kg total to achieve a full-blue. Katie O’Flaherty and Anna Clay were nominated 5th and 2nd in the U57 class respectively, and so were looking to dominate the podium. Yaron had drawn the short straw and was tasked with handling two of CUPLC’s most hyper lifters, while CUPLC’s favourite supportive SO Adrian came along to handle Anna.

Vikki went 3 for 3 on squats, with an easy 100kg on her third attempt to hit a 5kg PB despite only doing three sets in the warmup room. With Flight A squats complete, it was time for CUPLC’s strong U57s in Flight C to start warming up. Now, while many powerlifters claim to lift heavy in order to fight their demons, Katie took things one step further by carrying out a full-blown exorcism as she warmed up for squats, contorting her body in ways that no powerlifter ever should.

And yet despite that, Vikki thought it looked fun enough to join in. Katie’s opener moved as expected, but her second attempt fell off her back after stepping on the centre spotter’s foot! Fortunately, the jury was in a good mood that day and offered Katie an extra attempt, which she absolutely smashed, matching her comp PB. She took a 5kg jump for her third attempt, leaving her with a 122.5kg squat and 3 out of 4 successful squats. In the meantime, Anna easily squatted a massive 132.5kg on her third attempt, redeeming herself after missing it at Varsity.

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Next up for the bench press – Vikki quietly built up her total once again going 3 for 3 and achieving a 57.5kg bench.

Katie opened with her previous comp PB, then took a 2.5kg jump to 62.5kg on her second attempt. On her third attempt, she managed to press 65kg but not without jumping the command. Anna’s second attempt was a matched comp PB, so she added 2.5kg for her third attempt of 72.5kg. After a fight with the bar that the commentators described as “the best grind so far”, she was given three white lights and a new personal record!

Finally, the much-anticipated deadlifts. Vikki’s opener flew, so she took a big 10kg jump up to 132.5kg to hit her 290kg total and get the full-blue. Yaron then submitted a massive 145kg for the third attempt, which would match the current BUCS deadlift record and pull Vikki into third place. After Vikki’s secret twin sister, who was also contending for third place, missed her final deadlift, Vikki’s final attempt was dropped to a far less terrifying 140kg. She stepped onto the platform, hyped up on Christian hymns (not a joke), and pulled the bar with everything she had left. The bar moved slowly, but she locked it out – getting two white lights and the third place position! Her joy would be short-lived as the jury, who by now seemed to be not having such a good day, decided to overturn her lift, knocking her back down to 5th place. Next up would be Katie and Anna. Katie was aiming for third place in the U57s, and her first two attempts moved well, with Katie matching her PB with her second pull. Finally, 142.5kg was loaded on the bar, and Katie got in the zone with Encanto’s ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ (and frankly, Yaron would have preferred if she didn’t sing about Bruno either). As Katie locked out her final deadlift, it occurred to her that she had successfully pulled herself into 3rd place! Unfortunately though, the advantage of the deadlift battle was not on her side, and she had to retreat to the stands to watch two more lifters attempt to knock her off the podium. The first of them missed her third attempt, and for a moment it looked like Katie would keep her spot. However, the second lifter did manage to steal away the podium position. Meanwhile, Anna was busy making sure nobody could steal her 2nd place medal (foreshadowing). Her opener moved with ease once again, and 10kg was added to the bar for a successful 155kg second attempt. Finally, Anna attempted 160kg for her third, and the bar crept up her legs in what would be another fantastic fight. However, she locked it out so fast that her shoulder rebounded forwards, and the referees penalised her for having a soft lockout. Despite the red lights, she finished up in 2nd place.

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It was therefore a surprise when Katie was given the bronze medal, and Anna was not called up to the podium (due to an unfortunate computing error that meant Open lifters were grouped separately from Junior lifters on the scoresheet). However, after some excellent negotiating by the CUPLC supporters, Anna was subsequently awarded with her silver medal (and Katie quietly left the venue with her accidental bronze).

After all the drama of the morning lifting, Brandon Teh would surely have an easy time in the afternoon… right?

Brandon continues to pretend to be an U74, this time weighing in at a hefty 71.1kg, and was in safe hands with Charlie and Vikki sticking around to handle him. His opening squat looked easy, but his quads began to cramp. After applying enough Deep Heat to make a dragon sweat, he came out for the second attempt, just 2.5kg below his comp PB. It moved slowly, but well enough that he slapped on another 5kg for a big 225kg third attempt despite the other leg now cramping up. After what might be the toughest grind of his powerlifting career, Brandon traded his ability to walk for a new squat PB. As he crawled off the platform, he could be heard reminding everyone around him for the 47th time that day that he wasn’t really even planning to try hard that day, just in case they thought he found that lift heavy.

Bench press went with barely a hitch (other than, you’ve guessed it, more cramping), with Brandon finishing the event with three more good lifts and huge 145kg bench press to match his previous personal record.

As Brandon warmed up for deadlifts, he continued to cramp. While his opener moved with lightning speed, he once again hobbled off the platform. After a 15kg jump, his second attempt moved similarly well. Brandon sat in 2nd place at this point, and for this third attempt took a considerably smaller 7.5kg jump up to 257.5kg to solidify his position on the podium. His final pull was just as rapid, and as he walked off the platform, he nearly fell as his legs reminded him once again that they don’t work like they used to before.

To everyone’s surprise, Brandon was able to step onto the podium unassisted to receive his silver medal. We can’t wait to see what he is able to achieve at Junior Nats in a few weeks! Maybe even a bench press PB… (Brandon would go on to win nationals, albeit without a bench press PB).

Day 2

Early on a Sunday morning, two more CUPLC members dragged themselves out of bed to head to Moulton College: Karen Soh, an U63 competitor, and her handler/driver/hype woman Amy Williams. Karen didn’t have the best prep, having to rush it and fit it around a stressful exam. However, this didn’t stop her from starting out the day strong, successfully getting all three squats and a huge 107.5kg, making the third squat move faster than the second! No doubt thanks to the Succession theme song pounding her eardrums (no, I’m still not joking – Cambridge students are a different breed). Following on from squats, Karen’s bench opener of 50kg looked very comfortable. However, the referees that morning had apparently been up all night reading mean tweets about powerlifting referees, and as a result were dealing out some vindictive pauses, leading Karen to unfortunately miss her second and third attempts. Finally, on to the deadlifts, and Karen’s opener was so easy that she took a massive 15kg jump to her second attempt of 125kg, which moved fast off the floor but slowed down a bit at lockout. Finally, Karen took a smaller 7.5kg jump for her third attempt, and while it moved similarly fast off the floor she was unable to lock it out. But she still walked away with a classic 2-red-plate deadlift!

While all this was going on, the U69 women arrived for their afternoon flight. Representing CUPLC was Zara Guppy, a plant-powered plant scientist best known for her ability to grind a lift for over 10 seconds. And former CUPLC member, now representing [redacted], Domiziana Turcatti and her handlers “BUCS legends” Raghul and Suzie.

With Zara in the earlier flight, she was up to squat first. Having recently acquired a coach, Zara was keen to try out her new comp tactics, which included waiting 10 seconds after the start command - no doubt in an attempt to unsettle her competition and throw them off their game. Zara’s first two squats moved very well, and for her final squat of 110kg she tipped forward out of the hole, and for a moment it looked like she’d lose her balance! But Zara was in fact perfectly balanced (as all things should be) and with one hell of a grind managed to good morning the bar back up to the start position to secure three white lights. Following that flight, it was Domiziana’s turn to lift. She was nominated third place and was therefore determined to end up on the podium at the end of the day. Her first two (massive) squats looked identical despite a 7.5kg jump, but given what was on the line she decided to take a conservative 5kg jump to her third squat of 142.5kg. To nobody’s surprise, it moved very easily and she walked off the platform with a comp PB and plenty of energy left in the tank for the rest of the day.

On bench press, Zara mirrored her squat performance by making her first two attempts move easily. As she came out for her third attempt at 70kg, the livestream commentators began to get excited in anticipation of the grind that was about to come. And they were not disappointed. Zara fought with the bar for what felt like an eternity (which, by the way, is not easy to do in the bench press) but once again managed to lock it out for a full complement of white lights. Keen to not be overshadowed by an actual Cambridge student, Domiziana returned to the platform in the next flight for her bench press. Just like Zara, her first two attempts moved very comfortably, and she took a small 2.5kg jump to 77.5kg for her final attempt. She looked very focused as she approached the platform and set up for the lift, and the attempt moved exactly like a third attempt should, securing Domiziana yet another good lift and yet another PB! Things seemed auspicious as she entered the deadlifts still nominated in third place.

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But first up to pull would be Zara. Her first attempt moved well, but her second attempt of 150kg got a little stuck at the lockout. However, by this point it should be clear that you should never bet against Zara. So, as she walked onto the platform for her final massive grind of the day, waiting for her was 160kg – potentially a new PB. The bar moved rapidly off the floor but once again got stuck at lockout, and the entire audience was screaming at her for a full ten seconds (not even an exaggeration) as she fought to get the bar that last inch or two up her thighs. After showing a room full of seasoned powerlifters the best fight they’ve seen in their entire careers, Zara gave up and dropped the bar. Time stopped for a moment as she took a couple of steps back. Nobody was sure if she was even still conscious at this point, but as the spotters rushed in to catch her they realised the only thing she needed them to lift up were her feels. Zara may not have got her deadlift PB, but she left the platform as the crowd favourite and a newly-crowned monarch – “Queen of the Grind”.

However, the excitement was far from over. Domiziana was up to secure her podium spot, and things looked good as she stepped out to take the last opener of her flight, making light work of her first attempt. Her second attempt was similarly easy, and her prospects continued to appear bright. Despite sandbagging her second, she only took a 7.5kg jump up to 180kg for her final attempt; a pull for third place. While it slowed down at lockout, it moved far easier than a third attempt ever should. At this point, Domiziana had a 400kg total and third place under her belt with only two lifters left to follow: one who was already in second place, and the person in fourth place who appeared to be pulling for a deadlift record but would not surpass her for the podium spot. However, Domiziana’s seat was about to be challenged as the fourth place forecast upped her attempt selection to everyone’s surprise, looking to not only demolish the deadlift record but also to pull ahead of Domiziana! Her and Suzie could be seen watching from the sidelines as the final puller of the flight put in the grind of her life – albeit with a little bit of downward movement. Domiziana looked on with a mix of emotions as her rival was awarded two white lights – disappointment at ending up in fourth place despite achieving a total that would have won the previous year, but disbelief and awe at what her competition had done just to be able to beat her (Domiziana would then go on to wipe the floor with this rival at the Manchester Open a few months later).

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Day 3

On the afternoon of day 3 of BUCS, the U76 women were competing. Among them, Cambridge’s own Emma Onah. She came into her first national competition with personal targets in mind. And after her first two squats moved easily, she loaded up 130kg on the bar and squatted it so fast that she left the platform in disbelief! With one personal goal (and personal record) out the way, Emma returned to the platform for bench press and made 60kg fly off her chest on her second attempt. However, after a further 5kg jump for her third attempt, she got stuck in the midrange and unfortunately got her first failed lift of the day. Finally, the turn of the deadlifts. Emma had a massive third attempt of 160kg planned for the day, and in fact she even had the biggest opener of her flight! She then took a 7.5kg jump up to 157.5kg, and while it moved fast off the floor it did slow down at the lockout. Unperturbed, she loaded up 162.5kg for her final lift of the day – in excess of her own target! Once again, she ripped the bar off the floor, but this time the lockout proved too tough and she was unable to complete the lift.

Despite the fact that most of the lifters had been complete strangers at the start of the day, the atmosphere was extremely supportive and congratulatory at the medals ceremony. Emma felt touched by the camaraderie that is characteristic of this sport, further reminding her why she loves it so much.

Day 4

The fourth day of BUCS saw only the U93 men competing. CUPLC had no lifters that day. But there were several reports of a ghostly sad-looking man at the venue walking around eating carrots with his singlet pulled down to his waist. Although nobody ever saw such a man on the platform.

Day 5

The final day of BUCS saw the clash of the titans, with the U105 men competing in the morning followed by the U84 and 84+ women and the U120 and 120+ men in the afternoon. Representing Cambridge were Ada Adamczyk and Jasmine Mack in the U84s, with Zara and Jane tagging along to handle Ada. Drama started early, with both lifters missing weigh ins due to Yaron’s slow driving (and possibly also other factors), but the referees were feeling generous that day and let them weigh in before the men anyway. Their troubles were not over though! While Ada weighed in successfully and immediately went to town on a bottle of water, Jasmine was still too heavy and had to spend the next 30 minutes spitting into a cup. Finally, after a tense waiting period during which Jasmine nearly purchased a pack of leeches off Amazon, she weighed in again and was exactly 84.0. Jasmine and Ada were nominated 3rd and 5th respectively, but the 2nd place nominee didn’t turn up, leaving the podium positions open.

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In the squats, Ada skipped her way to the platform, hitting three successful lifts and ending up with 145kg (and a 5kg PB). Jasmine’s approach was far more calm, and she squatted 165kg on her third attempt: a massive 20kg PB! On bench press, both lifters managed to press 80kg on their second attempts. Ada took a 2.5kg jump for her third attempt, which proved a little too heavy for the day. Jasmine took a 5kg jump for her final bench press after the second attempt flew. While she was able to launch it off her chest, she lost the battle in the midrange and was unable to complete the lift.

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The final deadlifts of the entire competition started, and this time Jasmine would open before Ada. However, she lost balance on the way up and took a couple of steps backwards, resulting in red lights from the refs. Ada’s totally original deadlift setup allowed her to make light work of her own opener. Second round came around and Jasmine was under pressure to get herself on the board despite taking a 10kg jump - and she did not disappoint, hoisting up the bar as if it was empty and landing herself in 2nd place. Ada skipped onto the platform once again for her second attempt, and once again did not appear to struggle. Finally, in the third round, Jasmine added another 12.5kg onto her second attempt to have a go at pulling 167.5kg, which would pull her into first place. However, she forgot that it was supposed to feel heavy and the barbell flew upwards all the way to lockout, giving BUCS’ calmest lifter a big 12.5kg deadlift PB and a temporary hold on the 1st place spot! After Ada’s easy second attempt, Jane and Zara convinced her to add 7.5kg and go for a big hail Mary third attempt of 170kg. Unfortunately, Ada didn’t know what a hail Mary third attempt was, and proceeded to pull it like it was an opener. After leaving the platform, Ada needed to show off that she had plenty of energy left in the tank, so she picked up Jane and threw her in the air like it was her bat mitzvah. In the end, Jasmine placed 2nd after her main competitor pulled her out of 1st place, and Ada ended up in 4th place just 5kg below the person in 3rd. An incredible performance from both lifters, both of whom still have at least two years left at Cambridge!

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Full Blues:

  • Vikki Li - 52kg - 290kg
  • Ada Adamczyk - 84kg -395kg
  • Anna Clay - 57kg - 360kg
  • Brandon Teh - 74kg - 627.5kg

Half Blues:

  • Katie O’Flaherty - 57kg - 327.5kg