Former world champion powerlifter Derek Pomana is the only person to win three Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year awards.

Taking this fact into account some pundits may be surprised to hear Pomana, 48, hasn't returned to a powerlifting competition since retiring after the 2006 nationals in Hastings. A torn bicep at that event resulted in Pomana receiving a stern "take some lengthy time off" message from his doctor.

"I haven't been back. In a way it was a blessing ... it meant I could follow the kids in their sport," the Hawke's Bay firefighter of 25 years said, referring to 19-year-old Hannah and 17-year-old Sam.

"It's never good to bail out of a sport but while my mind was wanting to continue lifting, my body was unable to keep up," Pomana recalled while wife Amanda helped dig out photos and clippings from his 15 world championships, 14 of which were consecutive.


The Hato Paora College and Napier Boys' High School product (he returned home to the Bay for his seventh form year) won three consecutive world under-110kg titles - in 1995 (with a 935kg total), 1996 (962.5kg) and 1997, (967.5kg).

In 1996 he held the world record for bench press in his division for two minutes with a 250.5kg press, which was bettered by 2kg by the last lifter at the world champs.

Nine years later he produced a 255kg bench press. This effort, along with his 385kg squat and 367.5kg deadlift, contributed to his best total of 977.5kg and this total along with the individual lifts are still national records for his class.

"It's amazing to think back and realise I was doing my best totals a year before my 18 years in the sport ended," Pomana said.

The Central Districts Powerlifting Association historian was quick to reply when asked about the toughest environment he has competed in.

"That has to be the Ukraine in 1998. The conditions were harsh and despite being in the best shape of my life I ruptured my quad with my first lift."

That was one of numerous injuries he collected over the years, all of them at world championships - which makes his three firsts, three seconds and two thirds even more incredible.

He agreed a key to his success was the manner in which his brother and fellow former world-ranked lifter Wayne Pomana kept him honest.

"Wayne was stronger than me when we trained in the gym but I seemed to pull out the big ones on the day ... I got that little bit extra and coped better with nerves," Pomana recalled.

"Back in those days training at the gym was our life. We spent 10 hours a week in the gym and another 10 on rehab ... these days we still train but only when we've got a little bit of spare time."

The brothers do a lot of trail riding with their children in winter and wakeboarding in summer. Last summer Sam finished seventh at his first national wakeboarding championships in the 18 and under division and will eye a top-three finish this year.

In 2010 Sam captained the Napier Ross Shield rugby team to title honours and this season he hopes to secure a berth in the Napier Boys' High School 1st XV. Hannah also played rugby and as well as trail riding and netball, has shone on the national hip hop scene. She is in her second year as a nursing student at EIT, following a similar career path to her mother.

It's not surprising Pomana's children have excelled. The Pomana whanau are sport thoroughbreds. Another brother, Owen, is a former national bodybuilding champion and their sister Gina is a former Hawke's Bay Tuis rugby representative.

Gina's son, Horowai Puketapu, is a former New Zealand age group baseball representative and former Junior Black Sox softballer.

It's easy to see how following his own children's pursuits as well as those of his nieces and nephews has taken Pomana away from the powerlifting scene "apart from the odd coaching session".

"Once the kids have left home I will probably get more involved again probably as a referee. It's great to see there has been a resurgence in the sport," he said.