Weightlifter shares motivation behind Australian title win
AS BRAYDAN Fender dropped the barbell loaded to 150kg and looked out over the crowd at Cougars Weightlifting Club, he had eyes for just one person.
The 20-year-old credits his Australian Weightlifting Federation junior national title to his sick grandmother, who only a week earlier was in a hospital bed with a "a 10 per cent chance of living”.
At the weekend, she was among the hundreds of spectators who watched Fender complete personal bests in the snatch and clean & jerk to confirm a place atop the podium in just his third-ever competition.
In a whirlwind three months Fender went from having never stepped onto a competition platform, to Australian junior champion.
"My first competition, I was in hospital - I had a severe asthma attack,” Fender said recalling the state qualifying event. "I was in hospital on Thursday and on Saturday I was competing.
"I didn't do my best, but I did enough to qualify for states. Then my Nanny got really sick.”
An emotional Fender shared the conversation he had by a hospital bed, where he told his grandmother of his desire to compete for the Queensland Weightlifting Association Junior title.
"This one time I went in, and she could barely talk, and I said, 'hey Nanny, I'm going to do weightlifting. I want to go to states',” Fender said.
"She grabbed my hand and said, 'I want you to be the champion'. She just kept saying champion. It made me cry.”
Fender knew then he "had to do it”. He had to get on the podium at the state championships.
Coming from a crossfit background, Fender had five years of experience under his belt. But it was still a tall task to expect a state title with less than six months of weightlifting training behind him.
Or so one would assume. But he had added motivation to break the mold.
"Every day when I was training, I'd put a piece of tape on my wrist with 'Nanny' written on it,” Fender said.
"Each time I lifted, I'd have my wrist guard on but I'd take it off to look at the tape. And I would just repeat in my head, 'champion, champion, champion . . . I've got to do this for Nanny'.”
On his final lift, with a gold medal on the line and stifling a migraine which had come on after his first round of snatches, Fender made one final commitment to the person providing him with inspiration.
"Fortunately she was in the crowd,” Fender said. "I knew I couldn't lose.
"I told the crowd, 'Nanny this one is for you'.
"It made me cry on stage, but I knew if I did it would help me get it up, and it did.”
Fender completed competition personal bests of 120kg for the snatch and a 150kg clean & jerk for a 270kg total and first in the junior category.
"There were a lot of emotions really,” Fender said of the immediate aftermath of his gold medal-winning lift.
"Knowing that someone was going through a tough time and I could help them - not feel better, but give them a reason to smile.
"I haven't gotten to see her (since the event). But she sent me a message saying that she's proud of me.”