Powerlifting is a new Special Olympics sport, giving an opportunity for athletes to participate in a sport which is more suited to their capabilities.
Special Olympics Whanganui powerlifters recently competed at a Tier 2 competition in Palmerston North, in which all four brought home medals and qualified for this year's Summer Games in Hamilton in December.
Volunteer coach Sharnell Stevenson says it's a new team with a good chance.
"It's a team of four: two males and two females. They had never powerlifted until they started last year," she says.
All four have been in other Special Olympics sports but chose to take up powerlifting when the opportunity was offered by Jan Bublitz, chair of Special Olympics Whanganui.
Next, Jan looked for a powerlifting coach. The job was listed with Volunteer Whanganui and Sharnell, who used to compete as a powerlifter, applied.
"I had been wanting to give back for some time, and, last year, I took the plunge. As a previous New Zealand representative in powerlifting, myself, I jumped at [the job].
"We have been to two competitions now: the first one last year is what we call a Tier 1 event, kind of like a novice event, in Palmerston North, and the team did exceptionally well - they all placed. The one we just went to, a Tier 2 event, and that is the qualifier for the National Summer Games."
The team comprises Daniel Jeffrey-Allen, Freddie Wroe, Mikayla Shackleton and Bianca Guilford.
"All of them placed, all of them brought home medals and one of them did the biggest lift of the day – a 150kg deadlift, and that was the largest weight lifted for the entire event. I think that's exceptional, considering the small amount of time that these lifters have been in the sport. We're really looking good for nationals."
Her team brought home five gold, four silver and two bronze medals.
"All of the different disciplines and sports have to have a qualifying event, so we have a few teams heading up to Hamilton from Whanganui this year. We are really excited that one of those is our powerlifting team."
Sharnell says the Hamilton games is a huge event and is the Special Olympics calendar highlight.
As well as the powerlifters there are also equestrian, swimming and basketball teams going to the nationals from Whanganui.
The powerlifting team will compete in squat, bench press and deadlift, says Sharnell. In the competition you can do two or all three, but the Whanganui team will focus on bench press and deadlift.
As coach, Sharnell is very proud of her team and their achievements, particularly qualifying for the National Summer Games.
Special Olympics Whanganui is a not-for-profit volunteer organisation so they are currently raising funds to get all the teams to the games in Hamilton.
Local Freemasons recently helped with a public screening of Poppy at Embassy 3, raising more than $6000 for the Whanganui teams.
"We're lucky the Whanganui Freemasons are so proactive … so that was amazing.
"We've for some fundraising opportunities coming up so it would be great to get some support from the community there as well."
The River City Boxing Gym has made their facility available to the team for training.