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Liam McGarry: Going for Gold

The World Para Powerlifting World cup is set to return to Manchester after a successful inaugural year in 2020. Competing for podium spots along with crucial qualifying points for the rescheduled Tokyo Paralympic Games (24 August – 5 September), the athletes will be battling it out at Wythenshawe Forum from 25-28 March.

Liam McGarry: Going for Gold

Held behind closed doors, 13 athletes will represent the GB squad, which will be their first competition since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of those athletes is Liam McGarry, relatively new to the sport, Liam’s debut at last’s event caused a stir. But where he lacks experience, he more than makes up for in determination.

Bagging bronze in Manchester 2020, his focus is firmly on improving on that in 2021 when the event returns to the city.

Here he shares his story behind the sport, training through lockdown and maintaining a positive mental attitude throughout the pandemic.

How did you get into para powerlifting?

LM: After I had my spinal injury, I went and competed at the Spinal Games, which is like a mini-Olympics, and on the final day there was a powerlifting competition. The person who was representing our spinal unit pulled out on the day, and I thought I’d give it a shot.

My background in rugby means I’m comfortable around heavy weights. So, I went for it, and ended up winning it with a lift of 137kg.

After the competition, someone handed me their card and asked if I’d consider joining a para powerlifting squad, I gave him my email address but didn’t think much more about it.

A few weeks later, Stuart Martin, who works for British Weight Lifting, walked past me in the street, he stopped me and asked why I hadn’t responded to any of their emails, turns out I had given them the wrong email address!

Once we were properly connected, I started attending development camps and discovered this was a sport that fuelled me. It’s a challenge, and I’m good at it. Being competitive runs in my blood and I love the buzz. Being on the platform, feeling the power of the weights – it gets addictive!

People started to notice me as a powerlifter, rather than for having a spinal injury, and that felt amazing.

How long had you been training before competing professionally became an option? What’s next for your studies?

LM: I had my injury in my first year at university. Halfway through second year I started lifting, but nothing serious. It was in my third year when things picked up, I competed at the British Championships and was putting more and more weight on the bar.

Since graduating, I’ve been able to level up even more.

I have an offer from Loughborough University to study a Masters in Sports Psychology, but I’m not 100% sure on that route yet. I’ve got potential to send shockwaves through the world and uni might distract me from that dream.

I know I’ll be world champion one day, I’m already closing the gap on some of the big timers at the top.

How have you adapted your training regime through lockdown? Have you managed to progress with remote coaching

LM: My training regime has changed quite a lot throughout the lockdowns. I started training in a garage with my dad at the start, before moving on to train in a different garage with my training partner, Mike. I’m currently in Loughborough three days a week, and in the garden with my mum the other two.

It’s been eventful to say the least, but with the help of my gym (Crayford Weights), coaches at GB and Sport BU, I’ve acquired the equipment and resources to keep me training consistently.

And it’s paid off! I’ve progressed massively throughout the last year in lockdown and added 28kg to my 1rm. That’s not the end of it, I’m still working to add more.

I recently lost my nan to COVID who was my biggest fan so every session I do now is for her. She was at every competition and was always on the phone asking how training was going so that has been my main motivation throughout lockdown, I have to bring something big in Manchester for her.

This year is your second time competing in Manchester, are you looking forward to being back? What result are you hoping for?

LM: I can’t wait to be back, it’s an incredible venue.

Last year’s World Cup lit the fire in my belly, and it’s just a shame that I have had to wait so long to get out onto the international platform again. It’s going to feel empty compared to last time without the incredible support that I had. But I’m determined to put on an exceptional performance for everyone screaming at the live stream at home.

I have a couple of personal goals that I need to hit in Manchester. But more importantly, I am hoping to announce my name on the world stage, turn a few heads and show everyone there is a new kid on the block who will stop at nothing to get to the top!! 

How has your general wellbeing and mood been through lockdown? What do you do to maintain a positive outlook?

LM: Life will chew you up and spit you out, if you let it.

Mentally, I’m quite strong. It’s about learning to nip negative thinking in the bud before it has chance to evolve into a bigger beast.

When I was younger, I had a self-destruct button. I recognise that now, and knowing how to manage it is the first step to controlling it.

Mindfulness is a great way to reinforce positive psychology and keep emotions in check.

Talking is also good, I like to get people laughing because it’s so important! 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take up powerlifting?

LM: Consistency is everything.

You can’t come into powerlifting and expect results overnight, it takes dedication. Stick to a schedule so that life doesn’t get in the way of training. And extend that consistency everywhere – food, recovery, take everything into account.

Liam will be competing in the over 107kg category this year. Support him via the live stream on the British Weightlifting Facebook page.

Follow Liam's journey on his Instagram page.

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