It’s still early in the game, but earning her first gold medal in the sport of weightlifting has been, well, uplifting for Parksville’s Nicolette Kipling.
“Oh yeah — big time,” the good natured fire-cracker confirmed this week when The News caught up with her.
Kipling, 21 and a BSS grad, is part of a group of female lifters working with local guru Ed Fergusson who swept their division in Port Alberni Feb. 18 at the A&R Memorial Open.
On stage at the Glenwood Center, Kipling garnered gold, and Katie Weisgerber and Heather Bailey, both from Nanaimo CrossFit Club, won silver and bronze respectively in the Women’s 69kg event.
“It was great,” said Fergusson, adding “I’ve had people (I train) win medals before, but this is the first time I’ve ever had them sweep an event.”
Kipling lifted 46kg, a personal best, in the snatch event, and 65kg in the clean and jerk. She tried for a new personal best (66kg) — she made the clean but not the jerk.
“Had she completed her final lift, she would have won the Women’s Best Lifter Award — it was very close,” said Fergusson. “Altogether a very satisfying day.”
Being an open event, Fergusson himself was up against guys in their 20s and 30s — the winner, from the Semi Weight Lifting Club out of White Rock, snatched 9kg and clean and jerked 105kg “and he’s only 15 years old. He turns 16 this month… he’s been lifting for five or six years,” said Fergusson.
For those following along at home, Fergusson, who turns 77 in June, did a 51kg snatch and 64kg clean and jerk in Port.
“It’s fairly common for me to be the oldest in the competition by a fair amount, by around 20 years, if I go to the Canadians there are guys from Ontrario and Quebec my age.”
A former high school teacher from Edmonton, Fergusson won the 2011 BC Masters Championships in his age group and finished second overall out of a field of 14 lifters as young as 30.
He’s been to the Canadians three times — he competed in the World Masters in Ontario when he was 62 and in 1997 he won a Bronze medal in weight lifting at the World Masters Games in Edmonton in 2005.
When not hiring himself out as a master carpenter, Fergusson continues to spread the word about his sport of choice, and his team is growing.
The youngest of two, Kipling, 21, moved here from Edmonton with her mom and dad when she was 15 and graduated from BSS in 2008.
The first time the two crossed paths was at Jim’s Gym in Parksville two years ago.
“I was working out in the gym, I had lost a bunch of weight and I was just learning how to do squats, and Ed saw me and came up to me and said hey do you want to know how to do this and I said okay, sure,” she recalled.
She said she worked with Fergusson for a good year, and made her debut in the sport at a competition in White Rock just before leaving for Australia where she finished a strong second in the women’s 63kg event.
“I was scared — I was so nervous,” she laughed when asked about her first time competing.” It was just me and Ed, nobody knew who I was, and then I made my first lift and everyone started cheering and I was like wooohoooo this is great …”
Her efforts in White Rock actually earned her an invite to try out for the Western Canadians “but I was booked to leave for Australia so I couldn’t go.”
That trip abroad with friends, she said, had been planned for some time. She was gone for 13 months and returned home Dec. 7.
“I was going to stay two years, but I decided to come home early,” she said, explaining how she had been back less than a week “when I ran into Fergusson and he said “I knew there was a reason I printed off an extra entry form (for the competition in Port).”
That was in January and the competition was in February, “so yeah he kicked me into gear and I got back into it. I mean I’m still 20 pounds too heavy but whatever — it’ll come off.
Part of a core group of six that train together, Nicolette and Fergusson train together twice a week — once in Parksville and once in Nanaimo. Leading up to the last competition she was training about eight hours a week.
Asked about her most recent competition she said “there was eight of us that went on a big team bus, and oh my gosh it was so much fun. It definitely got me motivated again to go into the competitions… it was a really good time. The weight lifting community is like its own little family.”
Winning a gold medal she said “felt fantastic. I carry it in my purse… I’ve been flaunting it everywhere,” she joked.
No stranger to sport, Nicolette played rugby and high level club volleyball in high school.
“My mom worries I’m going to get hurt, but you can hurt yourself crossing the road …”
Asked if she has any goals where the sport is concr3eend she conceded “it would be kind of cool to go to the Commonwealth Games; I’m staill a ways away from that but yeah …”
Asked if she has a nickname, she chuckled and said “Ed calls me Mighty Mouse all the time …”
“He’s a great coach,” she said, adding I told so many people in Australia about my coach, that he’s 77 years old and he’s still lifting weights. It’s nuts,” she laughed, then made the point “he’s in such good shape it’s amazing — unbelievable actually.”
At ‘5-foot and almost one’, Nicolette may be short in stature but she’s big on heart and humour.
“She’s a very enthusiast athlete — she works very hard and she’s a pleasure to work with,” Fergusson said of his student, adding “she may be small, but she’s a very strong girl… it’s just a matter of working on technique.
“I don’t do it for the money that’s for sure,” he chuckled when asked about the hours he spends in the gym and quickly confirmed “there’s a great deal of satisfaction helping the people get going.”