Montel Tivoli says he is unrecognisable, physically and mentally, from the shy kid who was lacking confidence two years ago.
Back then, the 17-year-old Rutherford College sports captain admits he was unfit and let personal issues get to him. Now he is the top-ranked New Zealand junior weightlifter in the 105kg category and recently returned from the Oceania Games in Fiji with a bronze medal.
"I've come a long way," he said. "I really love the challenge. From when I first started, from training just twice a week, to now six times a week - it's awesome. It teaches you how to be physically and mentally strong, how to prepare yourself.
"It's just you and the bar. It's just war. You are not always going to win. Some trainings are going to be hard. Sometimes life will be hard. When you've got 200kg on your back, it could get you down, but it's up to you as to whether you get up."
Tivoli's career highlight was the 2015 Pacific Youth Games, where he picked up a silver medal.
"To go to an opening ceremony was amazing. We did a haka. It was like a little taste of the Olympics."
Tivoli did well in Fiji two weeks ago, too, although he was just 1kg off claiming silver.
"I left everything on the platform and that's what I wanted to do," he said. "I didn't get the gold, but I can work hard and set more goals and hopefully achieve them next year."
What was particularly satisfying was achieving a personal best of 162kg in the clean and jerk.
Next on the agenda is the North Island championships next month in Mt Maunganui and he will be fundraising for a big event in Malaysia in December, just after he has knocked over his senior exams. He knows he will need to sort his time management in his senior year, but is grateful for the support of the school.
Next year he is eyeing up a sport and recreation degree, a crack at the World University Games and qualifying for the junior world championships, which he missed in 2016.
Now that he has his driver's licence, the commute to work with his coach Tina Ball at Strength HQ in Ellerslie is not such a burden on his family, whose support is unconditional and always welcome.
"Mum does everything for me. I can't thank her enough. Hopefully she can [see me compete overseas]."