In his years of competing for Campbell River Special Olympics, Tye Cranton has tried curling, 5- and 10-pin bowling and bocce.
But the 21-year-old found his true calling when he discovered powerlifting two and a half years ago.
At the recent Summer Open, part of the BC Provincial Powerlifting Championships in Vancouver, Cranton won a gold medal in the men’s junior 120-kg Special Olympics division. The medal was added to a collection that now includes five golds, two silvers and a bronze in his brief career.
“I was thinking I would be doing pretty good, because we train whenever we can,” said Cranton. “I like powerlifting because of how my team is very nice and supportive of me and how I get to meet interesting and new people along the way.”
Cranton was joined at the competition by teammate Callum Maclagan, who also won gold while competing in the 120+ men’s junior division.
“They put a lot of work in; these guys have been training for this since November,” said George Maclagan, Callum’s father and powerlifting coach for Campbell River Special Olympics.
George Maclagan noted that Special Olympics competition is about not only winning, but about advancing and improving skill levels.
“These guys are both good enough lifters that if they just show up, they win,” the elder Maclagan said. “But it’s always about competing against themselves, and they both achieved personal bests and attempted beyond their personal bests.”
Maclagan also said powerlifting competition is 90 per cent mental once the athlete has trained and arrived for competition. The Granville Island theatre used for the Summer Open featured lights, music and a stage setting that normally would set off athletes with autism or emotional challenges.
Both lifters missed an attempt, only to recover and nail their next attempt.
“They’re able to focus into what they need to do; it’s absolutely a strength for these two,” George Maclagan said. “They can miss a lift and still refocus, repurpose on the task at hand.”
To that end, the coach said, yoga has been incorporated into the team’s training regimen, which includes up to four sessions a week at West Coast Muscle and Fitness.
Powerlifter Tye Cranton, centre, hoists co-workers Maria Davidson and Alison Hood at Shoppers Drug Mart after winning a gold medal in the B.C. Powerlifting Championships. — Terri Cranton photo
In the provincial competition, Cranton completed a bench press of 72.5 kilograms and dead lift of 135 kilograms, on his final attempt.
Callum Maclagan, 22, has been training and competing for more than five years. He bench pressed 130 kg and notched a dead lift of 205 kg to post the overall top weight of the competition at 335 kg.
George Maclagan said the success of the Special Olympics powerlifting program has led organizers to look to expand it into Port Hardy and Port McNeill to the north and Courtenay and Victoria to the south.
“As much as we serve 120 Special Olympics athletes here in Campbell River, there are another 120 that could be participating,” he said. “People who participate in Special Olympics are more likely to live on their own, in some fashion. They’re more likely to have jobs.”
Cranton provides a likely example. This March, he began working part-time at Shoppers Drug Mart at Hilchey and Dogwood, and also earns money mowing lawns and working for a paper shredding company.
“He is an awesome young man, and we love having him around,” said Shaun Dietrich, his supervisor at Shoppers. “He is so joyful — and funny.”
Cranton is not sure how long he will continue to compete in power lifting, but did make note of the fact the Special Olympics world championships are scheduled for 2018 in Halifax.
“Right now I’m aiming for another couple and a half years,” he said.