As a nervous 16 year old sits on a weightlifting bench for the very first time in November 2012, his team mates at the British Disability Sports Team Championships in Coventry are willing him to do well. He has never done any weightlifting before, but is giving it a go for the sake of his team. He does supremely well, smashing the previous weight lifting event record for a 16 year old, and bench presses his way to victory in his individual event. Fast forward twelve months, and that nervous 16 year old has grown into a confident young man, now sitting proudly on top of the world as the World Champion and World Record Holder in his weightlifting classification – what is even more impressive is the fact that Max’s achievements are within able bodied events against competitors with no disabilities.
The story of Max Foord, a student at Dawn House School and Portland College in Nottinghamshire, showcases a supreme achievement and a meteoric rise in such a short period. Max, who has Aspergers and suffers from Scoliosis, unleashed a potential in himself during that weekend in November 2012 and the sports team at Portland College, where he is studying a Sports Leaders qualification, identified that he had a natural talent which could be nurtured.
Dave Winter, Sports Co-ordinator at Portland said: “It was obvious to us that we had unearthed a rare talent, one with the skills and determination needed to succeed, but still very raw. One of Portland College’s volunteers, Colin Robinson, who has worked with many champion powerlifters (as well as being world champion himself!) offered to help train Max to supplement the coaching he was receiving here at the College. This enabled Max to receive the best advice and to learn techniques that would accelerate his progress.”
And accelerate he did; within three months of his initial introduction to weightlifting, Max had been crowned the British powerlifting champion; within 8 months he was the European champion, and by an odd quirk of coincidence, the World Championship event came almost 12 months to the day of his first lift in Coventry.
The WPU World Championships took place between 14-16 November 2013 in Emmeloord, The Netherlands. Max competed in the 75kg Teen Class for competitors up to 19 years of age, against another 13 of the best powerlifters from all over the globe.
Max said: “The competition was very different to any I had ever been in before, especially my first one. I was very nervous because the world title was at stake, but I was determined that I was going to do it and become World Champion. Once the competition started, after my first lift everything just went better and better and my confidence and belief in myself grew. I’d been lifting consistently heavy weights for about 5 weeks in the lead up to the competition, so I just trusted my training and listened to my coaches’ advice and everything just clicked.”
Max’s final lift proved to be a spectacular one, with 110kgs on the bar; he lifted it, and in doing so, set a new world record. After doing all he could do, Max then had to nervously sit and watch as seven other competitors finished their set of lifts; none of them could match his monumental final lift, meaning that the title was his.
“It was an amazing rush of adrenaline combined with joy! I had set out a plan of what I wanted to achieve and I went and did it. It’s a great feeling to know I’m the best in the world in my category!”
Colin Robinson, who has coached Max during this past 12 months said: “We had great faith in Max and knew he had a great temperament and attitude to the sport from the moment his coach James Godber and I met him. He never missed a single training session and listened to all the advice he was given. During the competition he handled the pressure fantastically and his achievements over the past year are fully deserved.”
Both Portland College and Dawn House School take some credit for Max’s achievements. Dave Winter says, “These establishments give people such as Max the opportunity to flourish and achieve beyond their own perceived potential through the support they can offer to individuals. The atmosphere that these environments create are inspirational and can help to change peoples’ lives. We give all our students the confidence and courage to question society’s perceptions of a person with differing abilities and acknowledge that it’s not the disability that defines you, it’s how you deal with the challenges that disability presents you with.”
Max’s exceptional progress and story is truly inspirational and the mark of a true talent in his field. His drive, determination and natural ability tell us that this is not the end of his story within the sport; it is just the beginning.