The ‘Social Distancer’ UK’s first COVID secure British Weightlifting event

Its 7AM on a sunny September 19th. A group of our lifters and I arrived at the gym with a lean Green forklift machine to start the set up of the Social Distancer – an outdoor 5 platform weightlifting competition.

Lakeside Country park where our club is situated is well known for its fishing lakes and wildlife – we always wanted to offer an event that encompassed this too, so it seemed like the perfect excuse with the COVID restrictions to move the whole event outside in front of the lakes.

The restrictions meant no lifters could share equipment so rather than competitors lifting on one platform – we would provide a platform and equipment for all lifters in the group; they would warm up and lift in their own space. Meanwhile while the referees and technical officials get their hiking boots and move around each platform to assess the lifts! This is a completely different format to usual and we were interested to see if it sped up the competition and changed the feels.

While the team and I set the area up for the platforms with underlay and levelled any lumps with shingle, the lean green forklift shuttled back and forth bringing platforms and the weights over. Event shelters were erected in case of adverse weather, and the manual scoreboard was written up on a board for coaches and lifters to see. (Being in the middle of a field we would have no power for TV screens or PA systems!) So it really was a walk back in time, to days before spreadsheets and electronic score boards – but also in keeping with the green tranquil surroundings and a friendly feel event.

Meanwhile the Coffee and cake stall – manned by my lovely parents fired up so the first lifters arriving for weigh in could grab something to eat and get cranked for the lifting.

The competition started at 10.00am much to the surprise of the locals swimming in the lakes or walking their dogs in the park! Ed of BWL welcomed and announced all the lifters from their respective platforms and let them know the drill for the different format. There were 5 groups over the course of the morning and early afternoon and the format appeared to speed up the lifting as bars were loaded by the lifter and they were ready to lift more quickly.

I was busy through the day coaching our lifters, but did get the chance to chat with the participants to give us a ‘Voice of the lifter’ quote to sum up their day too:

Jacob Says – “I found this competition to be a massive morale booster. After going down a lot in bodyweight I didn’t think I could hit my old PR for snatch but I was mistaken! With the help of my coach and teammates I managed to hit the numbers I thought I’d have to work for again. I was also one of the Technical Officials for the competition- it’s given me an insider view on how to be on the other side of the bar- when your vote can make, or reject a lift, it’s a lot of responsibility.”

“The platform setup was very clever to adapt to the situation we are having- it seemed everyone was enjoying having their own private platform for warm-up and their actual lifts- I believe it made it very personal!”

@sopeluk Jakub Sopicki 89KG- Lakeside Lifter – New Technical official –

I really enjoyed coaching in a live comp again and even more so catching up with the weightlifting community. After such a long time hiding away in lockdown, it was a pleasure to see lifters of all abilities who had continued training over lockdown – and still be able to show up and lift so soon after just returning to their usual clubs. It really shows the resilient nature of lifters in this country to overcome despite the challenges of the past few months. In particular it was great to see the @SUWLC Team and coaches that we trained and brought together last year, they threw themselves into the competition and its great to see them operate as their own entity with great success. Voice of their lifters Su Gunnoo said

‘I competed at Lakeside Social Distancer to get back into comp mode, and try to qualify for English U23 and/or British U23. It was expectedly a different atmosphere to a normal competition with everything outside, and individual platforms- but was good fun anyways and in some ways reduced the usual pressure of competitions.

The competition was well organised by Lakeside and especially Lizzie so a big thank you everyone involved in set up and pack down including BWL TO’s! It was also the first time seeing coach @elliotthompson137, the rest of SUWLC and Lakeside family since March, so it was really nice to get together and see everyone! On top of this I rounded off the day by qualifying for the English U23’s!’

@su.59kg Su Gunnoo 59KG – @swlc Soon to be BWL Coach and general badass!!

I would like to thank BWL Ref Ed @jhalsteaded all the Technical officials for running the event under unusual circumstances, @weightliftinghouse who kindly supported the event donating prizes to the lifters to go along with their medals and certificates. @yewtreelandscapes for the use of the Lean Green Machine; and of course many thanks to Liam the photographer @rollcutswho ran around all day grabbing stills of your lifts which are now available on our Facebook Page @lakesideweightlifting for you to pick out your favourites.

Last but no least and I am forever grateful to the Lakeside Lifters and my family who helped make this event possible. Congratulations all the lifters who took part, some of whom have now qualified for national and international competitions to boot!

This was 100% an ‘experimental process’ and the first socially distanced weightlifting event hosted this year – and think we pulled it off unscathed!

I cannot wait to run a second bigger event in the spring………keep your eyes peeled on our socials for more info.

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