Owain Rowlands has recently come into the county to further his weightlifting education at Strength Academy Wales, where he works as an instructor, and Bill Carne popped down to SAW to talk to the North Walian about his own weightlifting ambitions . . .
There is no doubt that one of the growth sports in Pembrokeshire is weightlifting as people of all ages have started to take a great interest in keeping fit and having regular work outs in the gym are very much order of the day.
Added to this involvement is the awakening in competitive weight lifting and 24 year-old Owain Rowlands is involved in both aspects because he works with weight-training at Strength Academy Wales and has made a good start to competing as his performance at the recent Welsh Closed Championships in Haverfordwest earned him qualification for the forthcoming Welsh Senior Championships at the Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.
Owain originally hails from Llangefni, on Anglesey, in North Wales but moved to Bridgend and then Pembrokeshire when he saw the advertisement for a full-time assistant coach at SAW and to his delight was offered the job by Simon Roach, who runs the SAW facility at STP School.
“Coming to Pembrokeshire was the best thing I have done,” admitted Owain, “because Simon has made me very involved and also set me on the road to competing.”
Yet rugby was Owain’s main sport as a youngster as he played hooker for Llangefni up to the time when RGC was formed as the North Wales’ representatives in Welsh Rugby’s championship division. But then he tore his hamstring and sustained a couple of ankle injuries before his work as a carpenter took him to Bath.
It was there that he came across a cross-fit type of gym as he tried to regain full fitness and took to it straight away – and decided on a change of direction in work, taking up the chance of attending a course for gym instructors.
“After some work in Bridgend, I came here,” said Owain, “and what I love is the wide range of work we do because as well as working with the public I also help Simon with the talented youngsters who come here as the Scarlet West Academy under 16s, the Pembrokeshire Schools and the under 18s who play in the. National College League.
“They have knuckled down to really hard work and improved their techniques and the weights they are lifting to help their upper body strength and general fitness.
“I also coach weightlifting at Pembroke School one lunchtime a week and will soon be involved in a similar way at Ysgol Bro Gwaun in their 5x60 after school sporting set-up.
Then there’s the power lifters and complete novices who want to get fitter – and there is a great camaraderie here that I really enjoy.”
It was after chatting to Simon about his boss’s competitive weight lifting that Owain decided to give the sport a try and after polishing up his ‘snatch’ and ‘clean and jerk’ techniques he was given his first taste of competition at a local event organised by Pontypool Willpower Club where he was allowed to take part.
“Simon came along for company,” Owain told us, “and it was the most nervous I had ever been in my life.
“I learned a real lesson that day – lifting is dependent on the state of mind as well as the actual physical involvement. I only managed three clean lifts out of six attempts in the 85kgs class and I suppose overall I was satisfied with my 90kgs in the ‘snatch’ and 110kgs in the ‘clean and jerk’ which gave me a combined total of 200kgs.”
Owain worked hard for the Welsh Closed as he went back to North Wales for Christmas.
“I only had Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day off from practice,” he said with a chuckle, “and that was only because there were no gyms open!”
He has also worked hard with Simon on his build-up to the lifts and tried to shut out the fact that he was being watched by lots of people, focussing on the bar and getting a job well done. He also dropped down a class to the 77kgs category and still managed to improve his combined total by 16gs as he lifted 96kgs in the ‘snatch’ and 120kgs in the ‘clean and jerk’.
“I only just missed out on 125kgs for the latter but I was pleased by the fact that I managed 13kgs over the qualifying weight for the Welsh Senior Championships.”
Owain is delighted to see the newly-formed Pembrokeshire Weightlifting Club really taking off, especially the fact that youngsters are beginning to take part, because they are the future of weight lifting in the county. Justin Head has also started out with a club in Pembroke and Steve James is looking to build numbers in Milford Haven under the watchful eye of Simon Roach, who is now the performance director at the Welsh Weight Lifting Association.
“We are delighted that parents are becoming aware of the good that can be done by youngsters in our sport,” said Owain, “not only in terms of a healthy regime but with regard to an awareness of the need for sensible diet and self discipline in and out of the gym.”
Owain has clearly embraced all that is good in the sport and his ambition is to make it into the Welsh Development squad, which trains at Sophia Gardens and has other training camps during the year. No-one is more delighted at the progress he has made than Simon Roach, who told us:
“Owain is an asset at SAW with his genuine enthusiasm, reliability and willingness to learn. He has quickly built up a rapport with customers, the rugby lads and in schools – and as he grows in confidence as a competitor he is going to do well.”
High praise indeed from someone who knows his weightlifting onions and we could pay Owain Rowlands no higher compliment – and we wish this modest and unassuming young man continued success in his chosen sport!