By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
For many athletes, venturing back into a sport after almost 30 years would be a daunting task, but not for Mark Gomes.
Seven years ago, Gomes decided to get back into competitive weightlifting for the first time since 1982.
“Around 2010, I was a high school guidance counsellor. I had a fitness club after school and the students were doing what I thought was Olympic weightlifting, but it was crossfit. I thought what the heck is this crossfit,” Gomes recalls. “I thought they’ve taken a bit of weightlifting, gymnastics, running, and swimming and turned it into a big business.”
Eventually giving crossfit a try, Gomes did quite well, but it made him realize he wanted to attempt a return to his “real love in sport”, Olympic weightlifting.
Gomes’ first experience with weightlifting occurred more than 50 years ago.
“I was doing gymnastics in high school and I broke my leg. My brother was a bodybuilder and got me training on my knee. We both discovered Olympic weightlifting and began doing that.”
After seeing he had a knack for the sport, Gomes moved to the competitive side, participating in events between 1968 and 1973, winning numerous national and provincial championships.
He noted he was completely self-taught in weightlifting, as there weren’t many coaches in the sport at that time.
As he began his adult life, Gomes took seven years off, before returning in 1980 and recapturing his provincial title. In 1982 he retired once again and lifted weights strictly recreationally for almost three decades.
“I really just kept in shape,” he says.
Once he was active in crossfit and ready to get back into competitive lifting again, Gomes says it took about “six to eight months” to prepare himself.
“You take a long break where you are just keeping fit and all of sudden, you have to throw a weight over your head. The crossfit gave me a general idea of where my body was.”
Gomes now competes in the Masters division of weightlifting, which include athletes over the age of 30. Classes are determined by age (five-year increments) and weight, with Gomes challenging in the 65-70 age group and 69 kg weight class.
Despite the long layoff from the sport, he has experienced tremendous success.
“At the present time, I hold nine Ontario Masters records and three Canadian records in both lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk.”
Looking to build on these accomplishments, Gomes is currently training for the Canadian Masters Open Weightlifting Championship in November.
In 2018, his goals include recapturing his Pan-American title in Gaspe, Que. in June and representing Canada at World Masters Weightlifting Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
In terms of his training regiment, Gomes says the most important demand is to “never cut corners.”
“Stick to your goal no matter how you feel that day and what distractions you have.”
Although he always eats healthy, Gomes says diet is not a big factor in weightlifting.
“Just stay away from the things common sense dictates.”
Over the years, Gomes has also been involved with the sport as an international technical official and dabbled in a bit of coaching, although he describes himself as more of a “father figure” to young competitors.
“I give advice more on the athletic technique. I try not to interfere too much on the coaching side.”
Perhaps equalling Gomes’ passion for weightlifting is the pride for his community.
“I grew up in Alberta and when we moved [to Oshawa], my wife and I made a promise that we aren’t going brag about where we are from, we are going to learn as much as we can about where we are.”
Gomes was a supervisor of weightlifting events held in Oshawa during the 2015 Pan-Am Games and represented the Canadian Weightlifting Federation on the city’s local host committee.
He tries to promote Oshawa whenever he can.
“Because I’m an international referee, at every competition I’m on the microphone. I always let people know what is going on here. Every time I’m in the GTA, I let people know about Oshawa.”