Chalking up Experience – The Story of My Second Powerlifting Competition

By Hanelle Fourie Blair

On Saturday, 3 June, I took part in my second powerlifting competition. This was a club competition hosted by a club in Gordon’s Bay, not far from where I live. This post is all about how it went, and the highlights of the day.

The build-up to this day was very exciting.

I had had the feeling for the last few weeks before the competition that things were starting to feel a bit too easy in the gym, and I was just itching to test my strength and set a new max for each lift again.

Making weight

One week and one day before the competition I got on the scale on a Friday morning and discovered that I was in fact 2 kg over the limit for the weight category I’d like to compete in.

Generally speaking, I don’t really give a hoot about what I weigh, because scale weight by itself is a rather pointless and arbitrary number. The scale only tells you what your body’s relationship to gravity is; it tells you nothing about body composition.

The only time I DO care about what I weigh is before a competition because I have set certain targets for myself and know that I can qualify at the provincial competition later this year by competing in a certain weight class, for example.


What most people mean when they say “I need to / want to lose weight” is “I want to lose fat”. At least, that’s what I assume, unless you really want to lose muscle mass.

In the days leading up to a competition weigh in, though, it really just comes down to losing weight, no matter what it is.

The easiest to lose is water weight because this doesn’t have a great impact on your strength or performance on the day.

To do a water drop, as it is called, you drink a large amount of water every day, up until the day just before the competition.

And by large amounts I mean 5 liters or so per day. Which is harder than you’d think, particularly in winter.

The basic idea is that your body becomes used to flushing out lots of water while you are drinking lots of water. But then it continues to do so when you suddenly stop drinking lots of water the day before the competition and the weigh-in, and that’s how you lose the extra water.

This worked quite well – up to a point. I missed my weigh-in with 150 g. One hundred and fifty frigging’ grams only.

As it turned out, it didn’t really matter on club competition level – participation alone is a qualifier for the provincial championship. Phew, what a relief.

But this was a very important lesson to learn, and I am grateful that I could learn it early.

You see, this will become much more crucial later on at more advanced levels of competing.

When and if I manage to qualify at the provincial championship to take part in the national championship next year, I will have to compete nationally in the same weight category in which I qualified at the provincials.

If you do not fall in the same category anymore, you are automatically disqualified.

If you are only a few grams away from “making weight”, like I was, you can try a few different things, if you weigh in early enough and still have time to weigh again.

I’m not going to spell it out, let’s just say these things involve all sorts of trips to the bathroom, running around the field or block a few times, etc.

So from now, I will weigh a bit more regularly to keep my finger on the pulse of things, and not try to lose much more than a kilo in a week.

Competition time!!

Hanelle deadlift

But enough about all that, let’s get back to the real topic of today’s post.

The athletes competed in two flights on Saturday: I was lifting in the first one with the other ladies and a sub-junior or two, and the men and juniors were in the second flight.

We started with the squats and although I was rather nervous, everything felt great.

I opened my squat attempts with 60 kg, which was my last attempt at the previous competition. Next, I got 70 kg, and then an easy 80 kg for the third attempt.


The bench presses were up next and they really make me nervous, because they are so very technical and because I don’t have a lot of upper body strength.

It was also during the bench presses where some athletes failed to complete a good lift, simply because they had failed to obey the commands I mention in the previous post.

My first bench was 45 kg, followed by 50 kg. The 50 felt smooth and relatively easy, but I knew I didn’t have another 5 kg in the tank for it, that is too big a jump for me on the presses. So my third attempt was 52,5 kg and although I really had to fight for it, I was thrilled to have made it:


Then it was time for my very favourite lift, the deadlift.

For the deadlifts I opened with 90 kg (my previous third attempt was 95 kg), followed by an easy 100 kg and also a fairly easy 110 kg.

Hanelle deadlift 2
I love this pic, even though it is out of focus. This is the look of joy that a new PR brings. 🙂

There may have been a 115 kg in the tank for the third deadlift, who knows. But it doesn’t really matter – this was only my second time competing, there is still lots of time for the numbers to go up.

I was very happy with my total of 242.5 kg. This is a 21.25 % increase from the first comp total of 200 kg.

It was a fantastic day of all-around fun and excitement. Powerlifting really is a fascinating event to watch.

My mom and sister came to have a look as well and enjoyed it far beyond their own expectation. The newspaper and knitting that they brought along were left untouched as they also got swept up in the excitement of cheering on the athletes.

The whole atmosphere was incredibly encouraging and supportive. Everybody cheers for everybody else, and there’s no smack talk or nastiness at all.

Here is a very happy group photo of me and my friends from the gym who also competed, all proudly sporting our medals, as well as two of our coaches. From left to right: Shannon, Jonita and Conrad (who all competed for the first time), me, Eugene and Reeco:

All smiles after a great day!

Eugene will be competing at the world championship in Belarus very soon – best of luck to you, Eugene, I know you will make us all very proud and can’t to see the results!!

Reeco will compete in his first club competition on the 1st of July in Malmesbury. I will definitely be there for support.

The participation medal we all received. So proud of this! 🙂
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Hanelle Fourie Blair
Hanelle is a lexicographer (dictionary writer) who works at the biggest monolingual comprehensive dictionary of Afrikaans, the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT). She also has a passion for sign language and completed my Ph.D. about the lexicography of sign language in 2013. She became passionate about powerlifting in 2016 and competed in her first club competition in February 2017.
Hanelle Fourie Blair

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