Ex-world champion powerlifter on the comeback trail

Powerlifter Junior Gelsthorpe with one of his sponsors, Jazz Bee, owner of Ultimate Supplements in Clay Cross.
Powerlifter Junior Gelsthorpe with one of his sponsors, Jazz Bee, owner of Ultimate Supplements in Clay Cross.

A spectacular comeback in the sport of powerlifting by Heath athlete Junior Gelsthorpe could lead to a world title within a year.

That’s how confident the 30-year-old Gelsthorpe is of making an impact as explosive as the one he first created some eight years ago.

“I think I can get back to the elite level I was at,” he says. “I’ve got my eyes on British records in all three disciplines, squat, bench-press and deadlift, and then the World Championships in Glasgow in November.”

As a naive but talented junior, aged 22 and 23, Gelsthorpe was crowned British, European and world champion in his 125kg weight category. And when he went up to senior level, he conquered Britain and Europe again.

After two years in the seniors, he dropped out of the sport when picking up a back injury while training for a Strongman competition, making it impossible for him to train properly.

But he kept himself fit and active, playing semi-professional rugby union for Sheffield Tigers, and now he’s ready to take powerlifting by storm again.

“I started training in November at the Nuffield Health gym in Chesterfield,” he said. “Friends and people I train with started pushing me towards competitions, saying I should show what I can do.

“I am also on good terms with the general manager, Richard Brand, who offered me 18 months’ free membership as a sponsorship deal. So it all stemmed from there. I’ve kept my body weight the same as before, so I will be in the 125kg category again.”

An important factor in Gelsthorpe’s comeback is competing without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids, so he is tackling events run by the British Drug-Free Powerlifting Association where drug-testing is rigorous. His first challenge is in Nottingham next month for a qualifier for the British Unequipped Full Power Championships in July.

Gelsthorpe, who is training to be a project manager for building firm, North Midland Construction, has won another sponsorship deal with Ultimate Supplements of Clay Cross. The store’s boss, Jazz Bee, said: “Junior’s strength has to be seen to be believed. I am amazed by his potential, and I am sure silverware and records are only a whisker away.”

More valuable support has come from Gelsthorpe’s training pal, Ashley Holland who, he says, “has been pushing me to my limits”. And the powerlifter is full of praise too for wife Leanne, and three children, Kai, 12, Ashleigh, 11 and four-year-old Noah, who are right behind him, even though they are having to make plenty of sacrifices because of his dedication.

“It’s tough on the family when you have a full-time job and have to train two-and-a-half hours day, five evenings a week,” he said. “But hopefully, by the end of the year, I will have reached my big goal at the World Championships.”