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Big men in very tight shirts

(a partial account of the North-West Bench Press Competition of August 20th, 2006).

I am not a man blessed with an instinctive sense of direction, so before heading for the North-West Bench meet at Rhino's I carefully found the gym in my trusty A-Z and planned a simple route to it. This would have worked splendidly had they not been digging up the main road in the centre of Oldham and diverted us through the town centre. Still, I made it through easily enough.

We have quite a good calendar of competitions in the region, entirely due to the hard work of Ian Shaw, so it seems a little unfair to complain about anything at all. Still, it would be an awful lot easier to follow the action if there were a scoreboard up (the next contest will be at Catt's, where there is one in situ. Bonus). As a result, I don't have much in the way of results to give you. Indeed, from the whole of the lighter flight (I assume these were the lighter weights, though they may have been split by opening lift for all I know), refereed by Jim Blanchflower on his own, I have nothing to report.

Ian Shaw, who wasn't lifting, refereed the second flight. Martin Flett was hoping for the British Masters II record in his new shirt; he opened at 180 in the old shirt for a competition PB and pressed it easily. The first 195 was misloaded to 200, but fortunately I spotted it and called out before he got under the bar, so he got his two shots at 195 for the record. Next time it will probably go.

A lot of the reason I was there was to watch big Jim Blanchflower bench, and it was worth showing up for. He opened at 272.5, making it look tremendously easy, then moved to 285 for the 125+kg record. His pause here looked very, very short, but Ian gave it to him. For his third attempt he went to 300; apparently he didn't get it down to his chest, and certainly he didn't get it up straight. I was interested to see that he was using blocks under his feet to get his preferred position; I don't think I've seen that before, and certainly nobody else at the contest was doing likewise.

I had been told (by Martin Flett) that records at the contest wouldn't stand, with only a single referee (this being holiday season and all), but at least one site seems to be listing this one. We shall see.

Perhaps because this venue, unlike the others, is near the middle of a big town, there was a larger crowd of spectators other than lifters and their immediate family here, though that wasn't necessarily a good thing; one pair of gentlemen, who clearly lifted if not powerlifted, not only let a phone go off loudly partway through one poor sod's attempt to lock a lift out but continued having a loud conversation as Jim attempted to bench 300 for the first time in Britain. Splendid. Otherwise, though, it was the same friendly atmosphere as at other contests I've been to, with the same core of lifters, and even had a free, and sizable buffet. Of course, I was too full of breakfast to have any.

All we need now is two more judges and a scoreboard and we'll be really talking.


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