Rookie weightlifter sets the bar high 

FENNELL Bay teenager Cameron McKenzie is setting the world standard in powerlifting in  his first year of competition.

In only his fourth competition, the 19-year-old defied a back injury at the Oceania Powerlifting Championships at North Sydney Leagues Club this month to record a deadlift of 320 kilograms.

The lift was the world standard for the 120-kilogram, 19 to 23 years age division in the raw category, which allows competitors to wear a belt but not a weightlifting suit.

The world-first effort in his rookie year was even more remarkable given the sports science student from the University of Newcastle pinched a nerve in his lower back two weeks before the competition.

‘‘I was considering pulling out,’’ McKenzie said.

‘‘I was doing my last heavy deadlift sessions and I was halfway up on a lift when I felt a crunch in my lower back. After that, even standing up was pretty agonising.

‘‘I was flat on my back for three days and I was at the point I couldn’t even hunch over. I’d lose my breath if I tried. But after physio treatment and rehab it was good enough to compete.’’

He backed up the lift with 245kg in the squat and 152.5kg in the bench to finish third overall. 

The performance came after he won the Australian junior title to qualify for the Oceania competition.

McKenzie, a former Lake Macquarie rugby union junior, came to powerlifting via a brief interest in bodybuilding.

At his only bodybuilding contest he met Australian powerlifting champion Richard Hozjan, with whom he has since trained.

He is also now under the coaching of Newcastle powerlifting godfather Max Bristow.

They are working towards McKenzie’s next major goal, the world junior titles in July in Russia.

In the meantime, McKenzie will be kept busy with his studies and as an intern strength and conditioning coach with the Australian Rugby Union and Wanderers first-grade team.

‘‘They want me to put the boots back on for a few games next year, which I may do as well,’’ he said.

His longer-term goal is to complete his masters in strength and conditioning and become a coach at the elite level of rugby union.

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