2018 National Senior & Junior Championships

The 2018 edition of the AWF National Senior & Junior Championships unfolded last weekend in Brisbane, as 165 competitors representing seven of Australia’s eight States and Territories came together at the Cougars Weightlifting Club, in the Sleeman Sports Complex at Chandler.

For the first time in Australia, the competition was divided into the new bodyweight categories recently adopted by the International Weightlifting Federation, creating 10 categories for men and 10 categories for women. Of these, the men’s 81kg category proved to be the most popular, with twenty-seven 81kg athletes split into two groups.

With 59 Queenslanders competing, the Qld Team Officials: Miles Wydall (Head Coach – Men), Angela Wydall (Head Coach – Women), Greg Hobl (Coach), Callum Hannay (Coach), Regan Hams (Assistant Coach), Sonia Stenhouse (Assistant Coach), Rob Innes (Assistant Coach) and Jemma Cowper (Team Manager) were all set for a busy weekend. In the preceding weeks, this dedicated group had been communicating regularly with each of the Qld lifters and their coaches; discussing and recording the athletes’ bodyweights, entry totals, starting weights and any other factors relevant to giving them the best possible chance to excel in the competition.

Qld Team Officials: Regan Hams, Rob Innes, Jemma Cowper, Sonia Stenhouse, Angela Wydall, Miles Wydall, Greg Hobl, Callum Hannay.

The championships opened with the 55kg, 61kg and 67kg categories for men and Queensland had five lifters in this session. Lynton Hargrave was unopposed in the 55kg category and secured the Gold medal with a 178kg total. Jett Gaffney faced off against Victoria’s Tony Sok in the 61kg Junior championship. Jett trailed by 5kg at the end of the snatch section but equalled his rival’s best clean & jerk on his second attempt. Unfortunately, Jett didn’t succeed with his final clean & jerk at 112kg and finished in second place. Interestingly, when the qualifying period for this event ended in July, Tony Sok hadn’t met the minimum requirement to contest the Senior division and so, although Jett came second in the Juniors, he claimed the 61kg Senior Championship with a total of 187kg.


Lynton Hargrave and Jett Gaffney receive National Senior Championships Gold medals from Steve Minnikin MP, Member for Chatsworth.

The 67kg category was a Qld v NSW affair, with three lifters from each state making up the field. All three Queenslanders competed in the Junior age group, while NSW had two Juniors and one Senior. NSW triumphed in this one, with the Queenslanders: Kolby Green, Matthew Eichmann and Shachris Srimaungboon finishing 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively. To their credit, the three young maroon warriors had only one “no lift” between them, evidence that they gave of their best on the day.

Session 2 comprised the 49kg and 55kg women. 2018 Commonwealth Games Athlete Alyce Stephenson won the 49kg category Senior championship with a total of 138kg, 4kg ahead of Tasmania’s Stephanie Pickrell and Emily Scott of Victoria, who achieved identical totals for 2nd and 3rd. Chelsea Nicoll had been battling illness all week, so the coaches took a conservative approach to her weight selections and Chelsea completed all six attempts successfully, taking 2nd place in the junior competition. At just 14 years of age and lifting in her first National Junior Championship, Lauren Hastings had to retire injured after her first clean & jerk, but she still took home the bronze medal for her efforts in this category.

49kg National Senior Champion Alyce Stevenson

Mary Barter, Maddison Power, Tara Noonan and Mia Gaudry lined up amongst the eleven competitors in the 55kg category. After a nervous snatch session, Mary made up 14kg in the clean & jerk to take bronze with a dramatic +6kg Personal Best clean & jerk that really got the crowd going. Tara Noonan was very sick on the day and she put in a courageous performance to finish 7th, while Qld wunderkind Maddison Power mixed it up with the older lifters, placing 6th among the Seniors and 2nd in the Junior championship. Mia Gaudry rounded out the Queensland contingent with 3rd place in the Juniors.

Six Queenslanders featured in the 59kg category. Jacinta Carroll and Erika Yamasaki made it a Qld 1-2 finish, taking Gold and Silver medals respectively. In the middle of the field, Julie Hind and Kaitlyn Duignan were also bunched together at 8th and 9th positions, while Rebecca Jakubovsky finished in 11th place. Lucy Manion won the silver medal in the Junior championship with a new personal best total of 132kg.

59kg Senior medallists: Erika Yamasaki QLD (Silver), Jacinta Carroll QLD (Gold), Lady Seeto NSW (Bronze)

The Qld Team officials had a chance to catch their collective breath in the next session. But just because they only had one lifter to manage; and even though that lifter was 2018 Commonwealth Games Rep Brandon Wakeling, it didn’t mean that they could relax completely. The 73kg category quickly became a two-horse race between Brandon and Haiyang (Kenn) Zhang of NSW. Kenn led by 4kg at the end of the snatches, but Brandon pegged that back with his first clean & jerk to make it 278kg each with two attempts to go. Kenn added 10kg to his total with the next two successful attempts while Brandon waited for his call at 163kg. This was the weight he needed to give him the 286kg total that would qualify him for the World Senior Championships with full funding, so it was worth over $4000. Brandon missed his second attempt, pressing out on the recovery. He then had to make the choice between adding 3kg to his final attempt to win the National Championship, or stick with 163kg and try again for a fully funded berth in Australia’s World Championships Team. He decided not to gamble everything and he secured the 163kg clean & jerk for full qualification but passed up the chance to win the 73kg National Championship and possibly an overall Best Lifter award.

Brandon Wakeling: 163kg Clean & Jerk

The final session of Day 1 was the women’s 64kg category. Tori Gallegos missed a couple of snatch attempts and despite hitting a new PB clean & jerk at 91kg, she couldn’t quite recover from the deficit and she finished in 4th place in the senior competition by 2kg. Tori, however is 15 years old and was also competing in the junior championship, where she finished on the podium in 2nd place. Maddison Black missed her second and third snatch attempts and couldn’t quite make up the lost ground. She finished in 6th place. This event was only Sarah Cochrane’s third weightlifting competition and unfortunately, things just didn’t go her way. Even though she had started on 78kg in a previous competition and had succeeded with this weight in her warmup, Sarah failed all three of her snatch attempts on the platform and she was eliminated from the competition. There wouldn’t be many weightlifters who haven’t “bombed out” at least once. Even the great Naim Suleymanoglou failed three snatches at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Sarah can chalk this one up to experience, and bounce back with solid performances in the future.

Day 2 of the championships started with the 7am weigh-in for the men’s 81kg category B group. From this session comes the best off-platform story of the event. A young lifter from NSW named Ricky Haung was scheduled to lift in this group and he had planned to fly to Brisbane the night before. However, Mother Nature intervened and severe storms closed Sydney airport that evening. There was no way of knowing when flights would resume, or if Ricky would even be able to get on one, due to the massive backlog of passengers. So, he and his brother made a decision. Ricky’s brother drove for 10 hours overnight from Sydney to Brisbane with Ricky in the back seat of the car, trying to sleep. Not only did he arrive on time for his weigh-in, but he also exceeded his previous best results in the snatch and clean & jerk!

Queensland had four lifters in this session but they would have to wait until the A group competition had concluded later in the day to find out how they would place within the 81kg category. Jon Pakchung is no stranger to the platform and he completed six good attempts to total 250kg. Lifting in his first national championship, Sam Jansson achieved new personal best results in clean & jerk and total. Mitch Daniels didn’t have the best of days, finishing with 228kg, made up of his first attempts. Maverick Meavao, another “Nationals” debutant, also lifted new personal bests in snatch and total, achieving 216kg.

The men’s 81kg A Group immediately followed the 81B session and once again there were four Queenslanders in the mix. Christopher Lai had the junior bronze medal in the bag when he felt a twinge during his second attempt clean & jerk at 144kg, and so he called it a day. Mitch Eichmann missed a few lifts, but still equalled his best total of 250kg. Chevy Sukkar got off to a shaky start and never quite recovered. Afterwards, he said that he felt disappointed in himself but is determined to work hard and come back with a bigger and better performance next time. At that point, Sandow Nasution was the only maroon-clad athlete still engaged in the 81kg competition. Sandow missed his third snatch but started his clean & jerk campaign with 157kg, the heaviest first attempt in the group. With a good lift at 157, Sandow secured a podium finish and then set his sights on his two remaining rivals: Frank Elliott (SA) and Sean Fitzgerald (TAS). Frank and Sean both ended up with 288kg in total after they had exhausted their attempts, so the Qld coaches called 169kg for Sandow’s second clean & jerk. This was the weight he needed to move from 3rd to 1st, but it eluded him on both remaining attempts and he finished in the bronze medal position.

Next up was the women’s 71kg category. Queensland had more strong contenders in this session, which turned out to be one of a number of close-fought contests at these championships. Leanne Thomas completed three attempts out of six and as a consequence her total was a little down on previous results. Rachel Davis added 4kg to her previous best to total 160kg and finish inside the top 10. Tessa Milton didn’t miss a beat and her 176kg total put her into 1st place. Darcy Kay followed in 2nd by a few kilos after almost taking gold with her last clean & jerk, and Victoria’s Nicky Cummings, having failed to move ahead of Darcy on her last attempt, sat in 3rd. However, Adrienne Karniewicz still had one attempt in hand and although she was in 5th place by some 10kg, lifting 100kg would take her to 3rd. Adrienne made the lift and three Queenslanders stood shoulder to shoulder on the victory dais.

71kg Senior medalists: Darcy Kay QLD (Silver), Tessa Milton QLD (Gold), Adrienne Karniewicz QLD (Bronze)

The excitement inside the Cougars Weightlifting Club didn’t have a chance to subside because the Men’s 89kg category delivered an even closer finish, with only 3kg separating 1st and 4th. The first of the Queenslanders onto the platform in this group was Dillon Fisler. Now 16 years old, Dillon began lifting when he was 11 and weighed less than 50kg. He’s still growing and improving and he cracked the 200 mark at this event, with his 203kg total and 4th place in the junior championship. Blake Mammarella had a good competition, missing only one attempt and adding 10kg to his previous best total. Liam Saxby gave cause for concern when he failed his first two clean & jerk attempts, but he came through in the end with the third attempt and a total that was only 1kg below his best. Ben Ward snatched 130kg and with his first attempt in clean & jerk, he secured 1st place in the junior competition and took the lead in the senior championship with 286kg. Then Matthew Pitt (Vic) put up a good 160kg clean & jerk to move ahead with 289kg in the total. Enter Michael Lane (SA) who also lifted 160kg, to make 290kg. Ben’s second attempt was good at 161kg and he took back the lead with 291. Matthew Pitt then had a crack at 164kg but he was unsuccessful and remained in 3rd position. All the while, Beau Garrett had been waiting in the wings for his third clean & jerk attempt. Beau made a good lift at 165kg and jumped from 4th to 1st. Only Ben Ward still had an attempt in hand and he gave 165kg a shot, but didn’t make it. And so, it was Queensland 1 and 2 in the 89kg category.

Ben Ward: 89kg National Junior Champion

Beau Garrett: 89kg National Senior Champion

To close Day 2 of the championships, it was the women’s 76kg and 81kg categories. In the 76kg category Madeleine Whatman performed a faultless set of six attempts to win the junior championships by a comfortable margin. In the senior ranks, Ebony Gorincu faced some tough competition from South Australia’s Stephanie Davies. Ebony secured 90kg in the snatch to hold a lead of 3kg over Stephanie, but Stephanie started stronger in the clean & jerk. Ebony set a 198kg PB total with her second attempt but when she missed her third attempt at 111kg, Stephanie’s coach thought that Stephanie had won by equalling Ebony’s total at a lighter bodyweight. However, the coach had forgotten that the rules have changed and bodyweight is no longer a factor in determining places in weightlifting competitions. Without realising that the National Championship title hung in the balance, he called 115kg for Stephanie’s third attempt, 3kg more than she needed to win. The look of relief on the coach’s face was priceless, as Stephanie succeeded with 115kg and took gold with the last lift of the night.

Madeleine Whatman: 76kg National Junior Champion

Emily Robinson and Erica Hamilton pulled off another 1-2 finish for Queensland, this time in the 81kg junior championship. Emily only dropped one attempt, totalling 150kg for gold, while Erica also succeeded with five out of six lifts to take the silver medal with 131kg. In the senior competition, Cassie Todd overcame a 5kg deficit after the snatches to win the silver medal with a strong showing in the clean & jerk.

81kg Junior medallists: Erica Hamilton QLD (Silver), Emily Robinson QLD (Gold), Telyshia Jones TAS (Bronze)

The excitement continued on the last day, which began with the men’s 96kg category. The three Queenslanders in this group acquitted themselves well, but they were, however, relegated to the minor placings. Shane Wagner achieved a new personal best total and finished in 6th place. Likewise, Jakob Daniels scored a PB on his way to 7th. Kris Corrie was in the battle to the end, until Luke Fulham (NSW) pushed him out of 3rd place by 1kg.

The final women’s session consisted of the 87kg and +87kg categories. With very little separating the top four 87kg lifters after the snatch, the stage was set for a competitive clean & jerk session. Tise Aaifaou led the charge with 89kg to total 165kg. Tara Pratt (WA) opened on 93kg, giving her 170kg in the total. Tise hit back with 95kg and 171kg. Dimitra Tsiliaskopoulos (NSW) opened on 96kg to total 173kg. Then Chloe Kerwick joined the fray with 97kg but failed to secure a good lift at this weight on her first two attempts. Tara Pratt also went for 97kg, and also failed. Chloe succeeded with 97kg on her third attempt and moved ahead of Tise on a 172kg total. Tise went for 98kg to move into 1st place, but it was “no lift”. And so Chloe and Tise finished 2nd and 3rd.

Bronwyn Dunne and Makayla Dingle were the Qld reps in the +87kg junior championships. Western Australia’s Ella Tomuli-Ah-Kuoi pushed the girls along in the early part of the competition, but fell away a little when it came to the clean & jerk and Bronwyn and Makayla more or less had the luxury of running their own races all the way to another 1-2 finish for Queensland.

+87kg Junior: Makayla Dingle QLD (Silver), Bronwyn Dunne QLD (Gold), Ella Tomuli-Ah-Kuoi WA (Bronze)

The last session was massive. It held nineteen lifters in three bodyweight categories and two age groups. In the 102kg category, Reilly Smith was at the back of the senior pack after the snatches, but he was able to put up the heaviest clean & jerk in the category, to claw his way into 3rd place. Michael Christensen improved on his previous best in both lifts and he finished 5th. Another relatively new lifter, Brayden Fender added 10kg to his previous best total to win the junior championship. Adam Smidt equalled his best total of 251kg for the junior silver medal.

102kg Junior medallists: Adam Smidt QLD (Silver), Brayden Fender QLD (Gold)

The 109kg and +109kg categories brought more drama and excitement as lifters pushed themselves to the limit in pursuit of the title of National Champion. Matthew Lydement increased his previous best total by 6kg to hold off the challenges of Jackson Roberts-Young (NSW) and Haroon Shukat (NSW) and claim victory in the 109kg senior championship.  Artemio Pocio took a convincing lead over his opponents early in the junior competition and maintained the upper hand to the end.

Matthew Lydement: 109kg National Senior Champion

Artemio Pocio: 109klg National Junior Champion

In the +109kg category, Jackson Solofa trailed the leader by 5kg after the snatches, but he was the last of the three superheavyweights to begin the clean & jerk. When Jackson took his first clean & jerk attempt, Joshua Quinn (Vic) had a total of 290kg and Orion Walsh (NSW) was on 305kg but both of these lifters had already used their second attempts. Jackson opened with 166kg to make a 301kg total and move into second position. Orion went for 170kg but failed. Jackson’s next attempt was a good lift at 171kg, giving him 306kg and first place at that point in time. Jackson then took his last lift at 176kg and made it. Josh Quinn still had one attempt left, but with a lead of more than 20kg, the gold medal was guaranteed to be hanging around Jackson’s neck.

Jackson Solofa: +109kg National Senior Champion

And so, after approximately 38 hours of competition over three days, the 2018 AWF National Senior and Junior Championships came to a close. It had been a great weekend of sport, made possible by 50 volunteers and 29 Technical Officials, led by AWF CEO Mike Keelan and QWA General Manager Ian Moir.

Behind the scenes Bowen Stuart and Brent Vaughn worked long hours broadcasting the event on the internet and capturing thousands of images like the ones used in this article. Tara Noonan did a great job keeping the QWA’s social media feeds up to date throughout the weekend; Craig Wegert supplied and installed the new competition platform surface and event signage; and Erika Yamasaki was everywhere! On the rare occasions when she wasn’t lifting, officiating or volunteering in other capacities, Erika’s voice could usually be heard above the crowd, shouting encouragement to all lifters.   

Queensland achieved a clean sweep of the Team competition, winning all four events of Senior Men, Senior Women, Junior Men and Junior Women. Ben Ward won the Best Junior Male award and Brandon Wakeling came 2nd overall in the Senior Men’s competition, with Matthew Lydement 3rd.

QLD Team Captains Brandon Wakeling, Alyce Stephenson, Ben Ward and Maddison Power accepted the Team awards for Senior Men, Senior Women, Junior Men and Junior Women.

Technical Officials

Alex Croot QLD Lesley Moyle QLD
Althea Mackie QLD Lyn Jones ACT
Barry Harden QLD Mary Macken NSW
Coral Quinell QLD Matthew Taber NSW
Dayne Sorensen QLD Michael Keelan QLD
Debra Keelan QLD Patrick Galligan QLD
Erika Yamasaki QLD Pedro Sanchez VIC
Ian Moir QLD Peter Ticehurst NSW
Jacob Shneidman NSW Phil Maunder SA
John Hanlon QLD Rawena Tairi QLD
John Zelanjak NSW Robert Gotts TAS
Katie Redhead QLD Robert Kennedy QLD
Lawrie Townsend QLD Sam Coffa VIC
Leanne Goldsworthy NT Tim Redhead QLD
Leanne Springer NSW


Alyce Stephenson Jett Gaffney
Amie Cox Kaitlyn Duignan
Angela Barnas Alistair Milliken
Ben Shaw Karuna Hoole
Bowen Stuart Katie Redhead
Brittany Gibson Kim Walker
Cassie Todd Lincoln Hanson
Charles Liu Loreyse Agnew-Green
Chen Zhao Louise Burns
Christian Gruber Luke Gardner
Craig Wegert Lynton Hargrave
Damon Kelly Maddison Power
Daniel Morrison Mary Barter
Darren Walker Mia Gaudry
Debra Keelan Michael Christensen
Emelia Green Nicole Power
Emma Kobez Paige Kimmince
Eric Su Philip Chan
Erika Yamasaki Rebecca Jakubovsky
Ethan Catlow-Elliott Russell Power
Fiona Redhead Sam Jansson
Ian Moir Sarah Tanner
Jacinta Carroll Tim Redhead
James Norman Tise Aaifaou
Jesse Dodd Will Findlay

CLICK HERE for the Championships Results Book

Published on 17 Sep 18 - 14:33