Unlike many of her teammates in the 2015 Pan American Games, the childhood aspirations of Sheridan student Amanda Braddock did not include standing atop a podium with a gold medal. It wasn’t until the age of 23 that she stumbled upon her sport, weightlifting, after searching for ways to get in shape, and it didn’t take much to get her hooked. Previously she had never played team sports or competed in athletic activities of any sort. Now 26, Braddock is not only getting used to her new label as an athlete, but also an Ontario 48kg record holder, a Canadian Champion and a 2015 Pan American Games weightlifter for Team Canada.
“I’m still surprised when I hear my name announced as ‘the next athlete’ at a competition,” says Braddock, who will be competing at the international level for the first time at the Games in Toronto. Usually shying away from the spotlight, she has learned the significance of mental acuity in addition to physical strength in the sport of weightlifting. “Your body can be ready but if you’re not mentally ready to put yourself under the bar, then you won’t do well,” she explains. Not only a feat of strength but an on-stage performance – each attempt takes place on a platform in front of three judges and a crowd of onlookers – Braddock’s nerves will be tested at the Oshawa Sports Centre, which can hold up to 3,000 spectators.
““Your body can be ready but if you’re not mentally ready to put yourself under the bar, then you won’t do well” – Amanda Braddock
Braddock’s training regimen has helped her build confidence for competing. She typically trains three times a week, three and a half hours per session with her coach Steve Sandor at the Sabaria School of Weightlifting in Mississauga. “Weightlifting is not all about brute strength,” she explains. “It’s a very technical sport. There’s an explosiveness and beauty in the movement of lifting and my coach helps me perfect that with timing.” It’s a rigorous training schedule for someone who is simultaneously working a full-time co-op placement to complete her Human Resources Management Diploma at Sheridan.
During busy times in school when Braddock wasn’t able to make it to the gym to train, her family helped her build a platform in the basement. When she needed to miss part of class to work with her coach, her Sheridan professors accommodated her schedule. It was this type of support throughout her athletic journey that helped ease challenges with balancing her time. “There’s always a way to make it work, no matter how busy things get,” she says. Members of the tight-knit weightlifting community that she spends much of her time with have similar experiences juggling training, work and a social life. For Braddock, this camaraderie makes it all the more worthwhile.
Braddock recognizes that she may have to make a decision in the near future about how much time she wants to dedicate to training and a career, knowing that most of the top lifters in Canada are full-time athletes. Looking too far ahead isn’t something she feels comfortable doing, considering three years ago she hadn’t ever weight-trained. Instead, she takes it competition by competition, acknowledging that lifters tend to have short-lived careers due to injury and the extreme physicality of the sport. What she is sure of now is the importance of getting an education to provide future options.
Likewise, Braddock is trying not to concern herself with podium expectations going into the Pan Am Games. Instead, she is eager to get more competition experience and relishes the opportunity to represent her country. “I want to put in a performance that will make my coach proud and that will reflect all of the work I put into training,” she says. “I can’t be disappointed if I perform my best.”
“I want to put in a performance that will make my coach proud and that will reflect all of the work I put into training” – Amanda Braddock
At the conclusion of the Games, Braddock plans to celebrate by indulging in a box of donuts before getting back to work and training. While she is on the trajectory to accomplish great things in weightlifting, her hope is to inspire more women and girls to get involved in the sport. “I always knew that I was capable of dedicating myself to something I am passionate about, but I never thought it would be in an athletic capacity,” she says. “Pushing yourself no matter what it is you’re trying to achieve makes you realize who you could be.”
Pictured at top of page: Amanda Braddock at Winterlift 2015
Written by: Keiko Kataoka, Digital Communications Officer at Sheridan.