When you’re in your 70s or 80s, should you be lifting heavy weights?
Most would assume that it’s not safe and it’s risky. But not for Brenda and Ed Fergusson, who are 75 and 84 years old, respectively.
The Parksville couple love weighlifting. They defy the myth that they’re too old for this type of sport. And at their age, they have no plans of lightening their load just yet.
It’s their way of keeping fit, healthy and feeling young. They’re a motivated couple and also competitive, as they take part in masters weightlifting competitions in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and also outside of the country. They have set provincial and national masters weightlifting records.
The Fergussons competed at the 2019 BC Masters Weightlifting Competition in West Vancouver on March 9. The event was a qualifier for the World Masters that will take place in Montreal, Aug. 16-24.
Brenda needed to record a total lift of 61 kilograms between the snatch and the clean and jerk. She achieved 62 kg and also set a new Canadian record in the clean and jerk with 37 kg for women 75-79 years age group.
“I broke my own national record,” said Brenda, who now aims to establish a new mark in her World’s Masters debut in August in her age group.
Not to be outdone, Ed also earned a spot in the Masters but had to work for it. He needed a total of 80 kg to qualify. He cleared 35 kg in the snatch but struggled in the clean and jerk as he failed his first two attempts.
Ed started with 42 kg and didn’t have a good lift. Instead of trying to lift the same weight, Ed decided to add another kilo in his second attempt. That didn’t work either. In his final attempt, Ed went all out and added two more kilograms to lift. With the crowd cheering him on, Ed successfully executed a clean lift that earned him the points he needed to qualify for the worlds.
Coach Doree Blake, who helps and trains with the Fergussons, said what Ed did was unorthodox because no lifter would go higher until they’ve cleared the weight they started with.
“When you fail, you do the same weight again,” said Blake.
“I had to go 45 kilos because I wanted to go to the worlds,” Ed explained. “If I did 43 kilos, then I wouldn’t get to go.”
Weightlifting, according to the Fergussons, is not a sport for young people only. They’re living testament of the impact of such an explosive sport to their health and quality of life.
Brenda is a late bloomer. She got into weightlifting at the age of 70.
“I already have a coach [Ed] so I tried it,” said Brenda. “He showed me how to do it. When I started it, I just wanted to learn the techniques. And I learned them well enough.”
Ed then encouraged Brenda to enter competitions. A year later, when she was 71 years old, Brenda ventured in to the realm of competitive weightlifting in the masters category.
“Ed said, ‘you know there’s nobody in your age weight category that has ever put a record on in the B.C. Masters. Why don’t you go and put a number on there,’” Brenda recalled. “I said, ‘is this kind of like a dare?’ I went and competed and put a number on the page. There was another empty page and another empty page. There’s no women in my age category that are doing this. So I am getting gold medals and setting records. I am setting the bar for those lifters who are younger than I am.”
Blake said it’s uncanny but “Brenda is 75 years old and she got stronger. Usually people get weaker.”
Ed coaches weightlifting in Parksville. He has been in the sport for around 60 years. He had back problems when he was young and he said the sport has helped him overcome them. He runs Fergs Weightlifting Club and assists seniors young and old.
The weighlifting couple will continue to train for the worlds. They are at the gym twice a week but as they get closer to the competition, they will go up to three times a week.