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Weightlifter to compete in World Championships

32-year-old Mike Bencsik is heading to Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Dec. 10
West Kelowna weightlifter Mike Bencsik holds an enormous amount of weight overhead during competition. (Contributed)

Mike Bencsik is no stranger to lifting big weights.

He’s been lifting since 2005 when he first got started in the gym at Glenrosa Middle School.

Now at 32-years-old, he can clean and jerk 458 pounds, snatch 308 pounds and back squat 682 pounds.

People often ask him about how much he can bench press, but Bencsik is an Olympic-style lifter – he doesn’t bench.

On Dec. 10, Bencsik is taking his impressive lifting skills abroad to Tashkent, Uzbekistan where he’ll compete with Team Canada at the International Weightlifting Federation’s World Championships and Commonwealth Championships.

Bencsik is no stranger to competition either.

He competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Locally, he competes in the annual Ogopogo Open weightlifting competition, including the most recent Open held in August 2021.

In preparation for the World Championships, Bencsik trains five times a week with his coach Guy Greavette who competed at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Both are Okanagan Vikings Weightlifting Club and train out of Kelowna’s Aspire Health & Performance.

READ MORE: Okanagan’s Vikings Weightlifting Club shows world-class at annual Ogopogo competition

“It’s really fun to try hard and be focused on something I like to do,” he said. “It gets my mind off the negative things in life. Like with COVID, everything has been so wishy-washy and it seems like people have lost their direction. So I’ve created my own direction.”

That said, the new Omicron variant, coupled with recent natural disasters in B.C., has changed Bencsik’s direction slightly. He’ll need to undergo enhanced COVID-19 screening measures and now has to fly from Kelowna to Vancouver because the highways that remain open are for essential traffic only.

“The cost of the trip so far is at $5,400, which is about twice as much as it used to be.”

To offset a portion of the increased costs, Bencsik started a GoFundMe with a goal of raising $1,700. He’s raised about $1,100 so far.

Several countries including China, Britain, Australia, Italy, Botswana and South Africa have pulled their athletes out of the competition due to fears around the Omicron variant. With many athletes and technical staff sidelined and the championships set to begin on Dec. 7, the competition schedule is in flux.

READ MORE: What we know so far about COVID-19’s Omicron variant, as it arrives in Canada

Bencsik isn’t letting COVID concerns get to his head — he’s focused purely on training and being ready to lift as soon as he sets foot in Uzbekistan, although ideally, he’ll have a few days to prepare before he competes.

If Bencsik is successful at the IWF World Championships, he could qualify to compete again at the Commonwealth Games, which are scheduled for 2022 in Birmingham, England.

You can follow his journey on Instagram @mikebencsik and his Facebook page: Mike Bencsik – Olympic Weightlifter.

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