Parksville’s a long way from Cairo (some 10,700 kilometres as the crow flies to be exact), but in keeping with the old adage that everything happens for a reason, Zeyad Al Karsh is exactly where he should be.
You could say moving here has been a weight off his shoulders.
In his senior year at Ballenas Secondary School, Al Karsh moved to Parksville with his family last September after five years in Vancouver.
The family moved to Canada from Egypt in 2006.
“Education mainly,” he said when asked why.
The oldest of three siblings — he turns 18 in May — he has a younger sister and brother. His dad is a family doctor in Qualicum Beach.
In the mix in Courtenay April 13 for the B.C. Weightlifting Championships, Al Karsh, 6’2”, 205 pounds, looked right at home.
According to Al Karsh’s coach, local lifting guru Ed Fergusson, the teen lifted 70 kg in the Snatch and 93kg in the Clean and Jerk for a 163 total and third place in the 85 kg category.
There were 16 competitors in all at the event.
“Not satisfactory enough to be honest,” Al Karsh said frankly when asked how it felt to win his first ever medal in the sport. “I was closer to silver, so it didn’t feel as good.
“I had never done weightlifting up until five months ago,” he explained easily when The NEWS caught up with him, adding “it was a change of lifestyle really. I was 235 pounds, out of shape, and not healthy at all, and I started going to the gym.”
After about six months of normal training he says he started seeing results, “which I liked, and it just went from there.”
Like others before him, Al Karsh met Fergusson at Jim’s Gym where they both train, and it wasn’t long before they started talking weightlifting and Ed, a nationally certified level three coach, took him under his wing.
“He’s an amazing teacher,” Al Karsh said of Fergusson. “He takes his time, he explains, he came along when I needed it, and he’s taught me a lot.”
Including both competitions, Al Karsh has been training for about five months, four times a week for two to two and a half hours a pop.
And in a sport synonymous with preparation, he says he knows he has his work cut out for him.
“Oh yeah, a lot of patience,” he chuckled, adding “there are people in this sport that have been training since they were 10 that are just peaking now, so I have a long way to go, but that’s the whole point of it — hard work gets you where you want to be.”
Asked what he likes about the sport he said “the competing. I love weight training, I love being in the gym. It’s kind of like school,” he said. “If you do your work you get the results.”
“This was only Al Karsh’s second competition,” said Fergusson, who at 77 has some 50 years of competing and coaching under his belt, explaining his understudy made his competitive debut in February at the A&R Open in Port Alberni where he placed 5th in his division.
“Great kid, hard worker,” he said, “with loads of potential.”
Al Karsh he said has two more years to compete as a Junior and plans to represent BC in the future at out-of-province competitions.
“It was quite a culture shock at first, but I got used to it,” Al Karsh answered when asked about the big move to Canada, adding “I love being here, and I mean if we hadn’t moved here I might not have ever been introduced to weightlifting, which is something I love.”
Never one to rest on his laurels, Fergusson and his wife Brenda leave today for Toronto where they’ll be visiting family and he’ll be competing in the Canadian Masters Weightlifting Championships in Scarborough. Stay tuned for more on that.