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Guelph powerlifter lifts his way onto the world stage

'It's pretty crazy that within my first year I got to the world stage,' says Kafui Hotsonyame

There was a time Kafui Hotsonyame was the skinny fast kid running around the soccer field. Now he's the really strong man lifting his way into the record books.

Hotsonyame, 26, recently finished seventh overall at the International Powerlifting Federation's World Men's Classic Championships in Helsinborg, Sweden.

He finished second in his best lift, the deadlift, and for about 30 seconds his lift of 326 kg (718 pounds) was a world record, until Swedish lifter Erik Karlsson topped it by half a kilogram.

The most impressive thing is that the Our Lady of Lourdes grad has only been competing for a little over a year and only really taken it seriously for a two years.

Before that he used weights as strength training for soccer, having played competitively for most of his life.

"I used to be really small and my rep coach was always bugging me to put on weight," says Hotsonyame, 26, who now competes in the 83 kg weight class.

"I played competitive soccer for the last 12 or 13 years. On my off season I got into strength training at Goodlife on Edinburgh and one of the guys there, (veteran local powerlifter) Jeff Becker, said to me 'you realize these lifts you're hitting could potentially break records if you took the sport seriously,'" Hotsonyame says.

That's when he started taking the sport more seriously. In March of 2018 he entered his first competition, a local meet, which he won. In fact his total for the three lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift) was better than the total for the two weight classes above Hotsonyame.

"That's when I started taking the sport seriously," he says. "I thought 'what's the point of doing all of this strength training if I'm not going to compete.'"

Along the way he got a coach, Ryan Lapadat.

He finished third at regionals, took it easy at provincials in finishing seventh (he had already qualified for nationals) then finished third overall at nationals, setting a Canadian record in the deadlift.

He credits his long arms with his deadlift prowess, although he says they are a disadvantage in the bench press.

"I enjoyed working out, but not over playing soccer, but it just grew on me," he says.

Hotsonyame has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Guelph and works for a Guelph logistics company.

To help cover the cost of travelling to Sweden he started a GoFundMe page and also sold t-shirts at his place of employment.

Is he surprised at how quickly he's advanced in the sport, where success is part genetics, part technique and mostly lots of hours in the gym.

"Definitely. It's pretty crazy that within my first year I got to the world stage."

While he misses soccer, and plans on playing in a rec league this summer, he finds powerlifting fills that competitive void.

"I grew up with two older brothers. Everything was always a competition," says Hotsonyame, who works out six times a week, sometimes up to two or three hours at a time, when he is in competition mode.

As for what he likes most about the sport, Hotsonyame said the fact "you are your biggest competition."

"I also love the atmosphere with all the other lifters. They're all supportive and if you have a big lift everyone congratulates you. From always competing in team sports, I'm not used to seeing all that support from your competitors."

He is taking a break from competing until the nationals in March.