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Young squad turning heads on national weightlifting scene

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Dave Paul

“We’re small, but mighty,” says coach Dalas Santavy of his stable of weightlifters, who train out of a basement gym beneath the We Are Fitness club in Point Edward.

The club might not be spacious and there are only a handful of members, but they’re making a mighty big splash on the Canadian weightlifting scene.

A few weeks after a dynamic performance at the Canadian Junior Championships, the half dozen club members were in the gym, training for their next meet.

“They work hard … they’re all dedicated. I wouldn’t allow anyone to train here if they weren’t dedicated,” says Santavy, who has dedicated himself to coaching and training his group of talented teenagers – four of whom are his own offspring.

“I’m a better coach than I was a lifter,” he says.

It’s a remarkable statement from a two-time Commonwealth Games competitor and many-time Canadian weightlifting champion. (He says he might not be done competing either. The 44-year-old boilermaker is contemplating coming back as a Masters lifter this year).

Santavy points to the success of his lifters at the junior nationals in mid-January as evidence.

Daughter Alana Santavy, 13, and Olivia Freer, 14, are qualified for the Ontario Senior Championships and, depending on their performances there, might qualify for the Canadian Championships.

“They really turn some heads when they lift,” says Dalas. “They both have a bright future.”

Noah Santavy is emerging from older brother Boady’s shadow, says Dalas. The 18-year-old finished second in the 77 kg class at last month’s juniors and was rated ninth overall among male lifters.

He has already qualified for the Canadian Senior Championships.

And still leading the way is Boady Santavy. Having already established himself as one of the country’s top junior athletes, he is quickly becoming one of Canada’s top athletes – without the ‘junior’ qualifier.

“He’s way better than I was,” says Dalas. “He’s blowing everything my father (Bob) and I did, out of the water.”

Boady Santavy’s record-breaking performance at last month’s junior nationals was truly remarkable. He broke Canadian record after record (13 in total) on his way to a first-place finish in the 94 kg division and top lifter at the meet honours.

Most noteworthy was his final lift in the clean and jerk. His 188 kilo heave broke father Dalas’s Canadian senior record by one kilogram. Dalas also competed in the 94 kg class.

Boady admits he made the decision to go for the record on the spur of the moment. In fact, he says, he had never made the weight before, having narrowly missed it when trying to lift it a couple of times in training.

While that record was something special, Boady says he’s focused on doing his best.

“I don’t really think about it,” he says, “I’m really just competing against myself now. I’ve been competing against myself for quite a while – at the junior level.”

Dalas and Boady agree he can lift more. For one thing, he has been competing at around 90 kg, nearly 10 pounds under the allowable weight for his class.

Putting on weight is now something he will try to do, as he focuses on the junior worlds, scheduled for mid-June in Tokyo.

“He’s got a real shot at a medal,” says Dalas. While he admits it “may sound bold,” Dalas says the sky’s the limit for Boady.

“I’ve been in this game for many years and it looks like we are seeing the development of the strongest natural Canadian in history.”

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