Weightlifters from Hawke's Bay have snatched a clean victory over fellow competitors in the North Island championships, and are now training for gold in the Olympic Weightlifting NZ Nationals.
Monique Baarspul and Renee Baarspul and Reuben Cooper competed in the North Island championship, held online because of Covid-19, last month.
Renee Baarspul won gold in the North Island event in 81kg and Cooper won gold in the North Island in 109kg.
All three were proudly coached by Gonzalo "Largo" Fuertes of the Hawke's Bay Weightlifting Club.
Fuertes spoke highly of the trio's training ethic and was "really happy" with the results.
"It's a long process but they are hard workers and passionate, and are really good," he said.
"It was the first Olympic weightlifting competition for all of them - I pushed them."
Fuertes said he's been coaching Cooper for a year and a half, and knew the Baarspul sisters through CrossFit, Napier.
"I started coaching them [the sisters] about four months ago," he said.
He said training for all three was intense.
"I train Monique and Renee, for an hour and a half, twice a day. We do weights for an hour. Reuben is training five days a week, a few hours of weightlifting each day.
"It takes a lot of time and training to be a champion."
Fuertes received his diploma in coaching from France in 2015, and moved to Napier in 2016 where he started CrossFit.
He was there for two years and the first athlete he coached was Rebecca Jans, who took second place in Nationals in her first year and third place in her second year.
And a podium finish is what all three weightlifters are hoping for.
Monique Baarspul said she'd been doing CrossFit, and started weightlifting training approximately three months before the competition.
"I've always been competitive and I'd already competed in four national level sports, so I figured why not go for weightlifting as well," she said.
"I didn't win gold in my division but I was one of the top four and the November [National] competition will be my first proper weightlifting competition."
For Renee Baarspul, winning gold was a "surprise", but now she is aiming for the top spot in the Olympic Weightlifting NZ Nationals.
"It was a surprise as it was my first Olympic weightlifting competition. I wasn't sure of other athletes' best lifts in my division so had to just put my best lifts out there," she said.
"We [her and Monique] have been lifting with a coach for about two months but I have been training CrossFit for three years, which includes weightlifting, so transitioning to competing in Olympic weightlifting isn't too hard to do movement-wise.
"Having a background in gymnastics has also helped with both sports as you need flexibility, strength and body awareness when lifting max load.
"I would love to make the podium at nationals if all goes well with training."
Cooper said he'd been Olympic-lifting for two years, and always wanted to do it competitively.
"I never had a coach but then I came across Largo through a friend," he said.
"I have always wanted to represent New Zealand in a sport. Growing up it was tennis, then I drifted into rugby which led to weightlifting.
"The gold was my first medal, my first competition. I am going to keep training for the nationals in November.
"I'll be competing at an event with all the best weightlifters in the country and it would be great to win gold."