A trip north of the U.S. border for two area athletes became an award-winning showcase at the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Powerlifting Championships.
Gilbert Arriaga and Daniel Gonzalez, athletes who attend H.M. King High School, were invited to be a part of the USA National powerlifting team in late May of this year.
Just a few months later, both Arriaga and Gonzalez have now earned the title Sub-Junior International Champions in their respective age groups after competing in Regina, Canada in late August.
“It took a lot of hard work, dedication, took a lot of sleep and it was frustrating at times, but I got through it and won,” Gonzalez said. “I do what I have to do at the end of the day and I am grateful.”
“After I had won, it was just a dream come true,” Arriaga said. “I mean, I worked hard for it. I was so glad I did it.”
Arriaga competed in the 105-kilogram weight division and Gonzalez competed in the 93-kilogram weight division, and both were awarded the International Championship medals for their divisions at the end of the competition.
Gonzalez and Arriaga agreed that the travel there was “hard to sit through” but once they arrived for the competition, it was business as usual.
“The traveling was long,” Arriaga said. “It was different because I’ve never flown out of the country before and it was a cool experience. As soon as I got there I introduced myself to the coaches and I told them I was ready work.”
Gonzalez said the travel wore him down a little bit.
“I had some jet lag, I’m not going to lie, I was kind of tired when I got there,” Gonzalez said. “We arrived on time and everything, so once we landed we drove around a little bit and I mainly rested the first few days because I got tired from jet lag and I didn’t have much energy to do anything.”
Gonzalez said he rested for a full day preparing for the competition and fasted to be sure he could make weight in his division before competing.
On their respective days, both competitors worked on their “mental preparations” and also worried about remaining hydrated and energized throughout the day to be able to continue competing at the highest possible level.
“After getting ready and everything, I went and weighed in and talked to all of the coaches about my max weight and started doing my warm-ups,” Arriaga said. “I did my warm up for squat, for bench and for deadlift and they all felt really good so I was ready.”
As the competition began, Gonzalez said his nerves were at an all-time high because of all the people he knew that were watching the competition at the venue and online.
However after his first lift, he was ready to hunt for his medals.
“Once I got my first squat out of the way, I was completely relieved because I knew I was in the meet,” Gonzalez said. “I zoned in and just kept working from there.”
Gonzalez had a 678-pound squat which earned him a gold in his lift, a 402-pound bench press which earned him a silver medal and a 617-pound deadlift for another silver medal. Added up, Gonzalez earned enough points to grant him the international title.
Arriaga turned in a 650-pound squat that earned him a silver medal in the competition and a new personal record, a 408-pound bench press for a silver medal and a 611-pound deadlift for a gold medal and accumulated enough points for the overall gold.
Both Arriaga and Gonzalez said it was fun being able to experience the meet, not only because they were able to win their respective medals, but also because they were given an opportunity to experience culture, whether it was in Canada or amongst their fellow competitors.
“The guy that got second against me was from Russia and him and I became really close,” Gonzalez said. “We were really cool, and we’re just talking and everything and hanging out, eating and stuff.”
Gonzalez said he also spoke with competitors from Sweden, Ukraine and other countries. “We couldn’t really speak to them, so we had to translate off our phone because we didn’t know a language and they didn’t know the how to speak English too well, so it was kind of funny trying to communicate,” Gonzalez added.
“I made friends with people from Russia, I made friends with the guy from Japan and he is pretty cool,” Arriaga said. “Because he knew some English we were able to talk a little bit, but we were translating words and he was teaching us some words in Japanese which was cool. We even met some guys from Germany. It was different and really cool to be able to bond with them and experience it all.”
The boys also had the opportunity to visit some museums, try foods and explore Regina, Canada when they had free time. Both agreed it was an experience all on its own.
Both competitors said they are looking forward to returning to the competition next year to defend their titles, and anticipate the level of competition to be as intense as it was this year.
Gonzalez and Arriaga both thanked their families, their district athletic director, coach Herman Rios and all of their friends who supported them through the process of eventually becoming world champions.