It’s Tuesday morning and, as usual, Etta Love is lifting weights at the makeshift gym in her family’s garage.
Every day, even in temperatures below -30 C, Love comes to his training room in Saskatoon to pump up his iron and pursue his dream of becoming a professional weightlifter.
At 14 years old, Love will be the youngest member of the Canadian weightlifting team to travel to the World Junior Championships in Heraklion, Greece, in May.
“It was something I never thought I could do,” Love said.
“But it’s also something I’ve been working on…. When I was eight, I was working on this.”
Love’s interest in weightlifting began when she saw her mother doing crossfit exercises when Love was just four years old. After learning that he excelled in strength activities, Love began turning to weightlifting.
He squatted down 45 kilograms (100 pounds) at the age of nine. Last year, Love won three medals at the Canadian Junior Weightlifting Championships.
All of his work peaked last Sunday at the Canadian Invitation tournament in Toronto.
The young weightlifter performs a 95 kg punch (where the barbell is lifted up in one motion), and then a clean punch and a 115 kg jerk (where the barbell is pulled up to the shoulders, and then up). The combined lift of a total of 210 kg earned him a seat on the Canadian national junior team.
VIEW | Etta Love says the gym is her sanctuary:
Even though weightlifting looks like a lot of work, he says that competing is strangely peaceful.
“When I actually lift it, it feels so calm and easy,” she says.
“Most of the time in competition, I just focus on one thing. I don’t know what’s going on around me.”
Love’s win in Toronto has raised her profile across the country.
Deanne Friesen, secretary-treasury for the Canadian Weightlifting Federation, said it wasn’t common for weightlifters to start at such a young age, but it could eventually work in her favor.
“Increasing your weightlifting is really just about repeating, repeating, repeating,” says Friesen.
“Starting from this point gave him something of a stepping stone to progress through that junior program and hopefully see a podium in the years to come.”
Meanwhile, Love said she anxiously realized she might be a role model in the sport. After being acknowledged by several people at this fall’s tournament, he admitted to feeling a little confused.
“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he said.
“I was like, I feel like I should have recognized you that way.”
Love’s coach Aimee Anaya Everett said she was very impressed with her new student, especially considering Love’s age.
Everett is thrilled that Love has the opportunity to compete on the international stage.
“It’s a huge achievement for him, especially considering he’s come this far in the past year,” Everett said.
“He really has a relentless work ethic.”
Love initially found her new coach, who lives in Oregon, on Instagram and was intrigued by his views on the sport. Love reached out last year to ask Everett about coaching.
“He’s been very open about mental health, which means a lot in any sport, especially this sport,” he said.
“We often have a strong mindset and suppress your feelings. He’s not someone who does that, but he is someone who is so strong and capable.”
The couple have bridged the gap by working online. While this complicates the work, Everett says it appears to be working.
“It definitely makes my job harder and makes the athlete’s job more difficult, especially since he’s training alone,” he said.
“But he’s very mature beyond their age, and he has a really great work ethic to go out there and train.”
Love says he’s been busy raising funds for his trip to Greece and has created a GoFundMe page. So far he has raised more than half of his $6,000 goal.
“Coffee aficionado nerd. Troublemaker. General communicator. Gamer. Analyst. Creator. Total brew ninja.”