The last time I met Cuong at the Old School gym to take photos for Sonday Savour, he was preparing for a contest. He got more and more serious about the contest over the time, once even told me he was stressed about it.
The contest took place yesterday in Thu Thiem. I had spare time so came to see more of the ‘powerlifting’ world and hoped to take some pictures of him. I knew this was an important event to Cuong and his fellows, the day they had worked so hard for.
I came just right before Cuong’s turn to took the first challenge of the contest: Squat. He competed at the range of below 75 kg along with Toan, a fellow from the same gym with him (and also appeared in Sonday Savour 😉 After Squat was Bench Press, then finally Deadlift. Between challenges the contestants had breaks. All of them had to spend those break time strategically, balancing between keeping their muscles and spirit ‘warm’ for the next round and relaxing to save energy.
As I learned before when visiting their gym, ‘powerlifting’ seemed an individual sport but actually required lots of team work. Cuong and Toan got their whole team by their sides during the day. While the team leader, also their mentor, watched over everything, other members helped the contestants relax their musles and preparing the weights, or simply just speaking words into the fellows’ ears to encourage the guys. Their support continued until the last seconds right before the contestant had to lift the weights by themselves. That was something touching about the sport.
It was super exciting the see the moment a Deadlift contestant held the bar high long enough while everybody shouted as if they could give him some more strength. This was the best part of the contest. His whole face and body transformed so strongly that reminded me of how the Gokou Son in Dragon Ballz turned himself into a Super Sayan.
I was continuously wowed by the moment Cuong raised his strength to another level aggressively because it was his last attempt, then the moment the referee gave him the sign to put the weights down, then the moment he hold the bar until it touched the ground, if he let it go he would fail right away, then the moment both he and the audience broke out. He succeeded over his top competitor with that last attempt! Things happened so fast and just took my breath away and I failed to capture all of those moments.
At the moment I just knew Cuong and Toan did their best. Later I knew Cuong won the 1st position in Deadlift by 2.5 kg heavier his closest competitor’s lift. His record:
Squat 180 kg
Bench 107.5 kg
Deadlift 237.5 kg
I knew I didn’t waste my time coming to the contest and photographing these young and strong men. I heard they were aiming for something bigger, probably something international. Beautiful! Keep working, men!