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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
Ashley Lavigne jumps from dance to weightlifting
by Randy Pascal

They are a small group, yet mighty. They bring together a surprisingly diverse collection of athletes. And they are enjoying a certain measure of success these days.

"They" are Voyageur Weightlifting.

Under the guidance of former national caliber cyclist Thomas Hums, the group is producing some noteworthy results, all while attracting a membership group that might not fit the stereotype of a "typical" weightlifter.

"The cross section here today is a dancer, two hockey/soccer players, and a runner, or generally athletic guy," said Hums with a smile, as his crew went through their paces at the Laurentian University Fieldhouse weight room.

"People seem to be interested by the dynamics of the sport, that draws them to it." And while many might assume that this is a male dominated environment, coach Hums has found the opposite to be true.

"There are a lot of girls that are interested in it," he stated. "I think that comes from the fact that they are able to drop the ego and learn the sport." Case in point - 17 year old Ashley Lavigne, the "dancer" of the group.

"I had no idea what a "snatch" or a "clean and jerk" were, and those are the main lifts," laughed Lavigne. "When I was little, I did everything, but I was a competitive dancer for nine years. My coordination, with dancing, is actually really bad, believe it or not."

"But I found this easy to pick up, because the movements made sense. There's still technicalities that I have to work on." A student at Sudbury Secondary School, Lavigne recently recorded best lifts of 50 kg and 56 kg in the two sections of a competition at Blue Mountain, qualifying her for the Fall Classic in November.

This despite having picked up the sport just six months ago, only just beginning to grasp the intricacies of lifting. "I wasn't standing up properly with the lift, I was leaning forward too much," she said. "And I think the nerves of being there, my first competition out of town."

Throw in the fact that Lavigne is just coming back from a shoulder injury, and one can see the upside that exists when she really gets a feel for this new endeavour. "The clean and jerk, I would say, is the biggest challenge, for sure," she suggested.

"I think it's just that the bar is actually landing on you, and that makes me a little more nervous. And then with the jerk, I had a shoulder problem, so I haven't been able to work on it as much."

Still, she forges on with a handful of goals in sight. "Adding more weight and becoming more consistent with the weights that I am doing," she said. "It's not only strength. A lot of it has to do with technique and speed. For us, it's about improving our own personal records every time, which is pretty exciting."

Lavigne will be joined at the Fall Classic by teammate Kiersten King, who qualified based on her performance at the Ontario Summer Games in Mississauga last month.

Also competing at Blue Mountain, Hums captured a silver medal in his category, lifting 110/120 for a combined total of 230 kilos. It was enough to qualify him for the upcoming Senior Provincial Championships.

"I got that out of the way early this year, which was good," said Hums. "Now I can focus on National Championships for later in the year. The numbers that I hit so far this summer would have qualified me for nationals last year, but the standards recently went up."

"But considering how early it is in the year, I'm still 5-10 kg off my best lifts, and I'm 5-10 kgs off what I need," Hums stated. "I'm in a good spot right now, as long as I don't get injured."

Patience will be key, as he must approach his own lifting somewhat differently than the bulk of the students he is working with. "The younger lifters who are newer to the sport are going to make bigger improvements as their strength and as their technique improves," he said.

"I'm certainly going to be tweaking things as I go along the way, but my improvements are more based on a peaking process throughout the year."

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