Brandon Leisure and Health Hub recently hosted the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation’s (WDFPF) championships with contestants from across the globe in attendance and local lifters Christine Weetman and Sam Naylor both winning titles.

Christine broke one European record and was crowned World Champion for 2023 in her age and weight category and Sam took Best Male Lift of the event.

Brandon is no stranger to international and national powerlifting events, with local organisation, Brandon Powerlifting Club being the driving force behind the federation’s decision to host them in Brandon.

Lee Hyne, founder and head coach at Brandon Powerlifting Club started the club in 2012 with very little equipment but lots of enthusiasm and determination, setting up an environment for local people to train and learn in each week.

Abbeycroft Leisure, who manage the centre on behalf of West Suffolk Council, together with locality funding from the council, was able to help the club develop by buying them equipment to train with and host events so the members started to powerlift and enter competitions as part of their affiliation to the British Drug-Free Powerlifting Association (BDFPA) in 2016.

Lee said:

“This was another fantastic event held in Brandon and I’m incredibly proud of the club, Christine and Sam and all our participants and volunteers.”
“Being a member of the BDFPA, with its strict testing rules every competition, has given us a world platform on which to compete and we’ve become a very respected club by the Federation and we’re aiming to become a centre of excellence.”
“We’re extremely grateful to Abbeycroft and the council and we hope to encourage more people to come and join us. People of all ages powerelift, some into their 80’s and it’s actually very good for women who have osteoporosis.”

Sam, aged 38 from Bury St Edmunds, started lifting a year ago following an injury he sustained in Brazilian Jujitsu. He said:

“I really wanted a sport to focus on and I loved the idea of belonging to the BDFPA, because of it’s drug-free policy, and as soon as I started training I knew the sport was for me.”
“I’m technically in my rookie-year, so achieving the result I did at the World Championships has given me such a boost and it was brilliant meeting other competitors from around the world, including a 77 year-old guy who lifted over 200kg – just incredible – and that’s what I love as well about the sport, its so diverse and almost anyone can benefit from it.”

Christine, aged 54 from Ely, has lifted for quite a few years, just at her local boot camp and during PT sessions, but not competitive at all. She wanted to try competing but couldn’t find anywhere until she saw the BDFPA event in Brandon and contacted Lee before signing up for a membership with Abbeycroft and now trains religiously three times a week with the Club. Christine said:

“I’m obviously very happy with the results I achieved at the World Championships, but I can’t stress enough how Powerlifting has been life-changing for me and is now a massive part of my life. Lee, our head coach is unbelievable, such a dedicated person and during my surgery recovery, he stayed in touch and encouraged me constantly. The club is honestly like a family unit and being part of that community makes you feel like you belong, which is so important for mental health.”
“It’s actually pretty difficult to make friends when you’re older so the feeling of belonging has helped me physically, mentally and socially.”

Warren Smyth, chief executive at Abbeycroft said:

“We’re so pleased to see the success of Brandon Powerlifting Club and congratulations to Christine, Sam and all the competitors actually.”
“Club Sport and community groups are at the heart of what we do, and we know just how much these mean to the people that belong to them.”

Cllr Ian Shipp, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture at West Suffolk Council, said:

“For the World championships to have been held here in Brandon is brilliant for our venue, the town and the local area. West Suffolk Council works with Abbeycroft to encourage people to get active for the benefit of both their physical and mental health. We now have a World champion and a title winner representing the Brandon Powerlifting Club – whatever your sport, this is inspirational, and I am delighted at this success.”

[Images courtesy of Lee Hyne].

WDFPF logo on floor at brandon
christine weetman and lee hyne

Christine and Lee at the event