Summerheights Golf, Cornwall, Ontario

Local weightlifter breaks provincial record

Image of Shawna O'Neill
By Shawna O'Neill
Local weightlifter breaks provincial record
Maleeka Virtue recently broke a provincial weightlifting record (Shawna O'Neill/Seaway News photo).

This article has been edited for further clarification and to properly attribute the United Counties Weightlifting Club. 

CORNWALL, Ontario – At just 15-years-old, Maleeka Virtue of Cornwall has achieved the heaviest weightlifting snatch of 58 kg in her 49 kg and under weight division in Ontario.

“It feels good to have broken the record because I have been chasing it for quite a while. It’s definitely an accomplishment. But there are two more records I want to beat…so it’s not the end,” said Virtue determinedly.

Virtue perfectly executed a 56 kg and 58 kg snatch at a Young Hercules competition in Trenton this past June, beating the previously set record of 55 kg, which had not been surpassed for three years.

“She’s going to explode,” said one of Virtue’s coaches, Abbie Sergenese. “She’s amazing. To work with such a young lady that is so dedicated to the sport…she shows up everyday, she’s ready, sometimes she cries during workouts but she still finishes them. She’s the easiest person to work with. She really knows how to take a cue and materialize it and makes it happen. It’s such a privilege to work with her.”

After suffering a broken leg from a gymnastics injury around the age of 10, Virtue attended the gym to rehabilitate her muscles, which lead her to discover weightlifting. The sport, which Sergenese recognizes may be on the brink of reaching mainstream popularity, soon became Virtue’s sole athletic focus.

“She’s naturally good at it. She’s at such a higher level, she needs more specific training. She needs people who are going to be able to pay more attention, so we were able to give that to her,” said Sergenese who works with the newly registered United Counties Weightlifting Club. Sergenese, who has been coaching Virtue for about a year, said the two have created a lasting friendship. They often adorn matching, custom-made ‘UCWC’ earrings to represent the club, which was formed recently and has an intensive focus on competitive weightlifters.

Virtue is training diligently for upcoming competitions as she is required to compete in two before the Winter Games series, eyeing the national championships which will be held in Alberta in 2020. Virtue spends at least eight hours every week in the gym training, spread over three or four days. Soon she will turn 16 and move up to the youth division, where her competition may provide her with more challenge.

“There’s a little more fire in her, especially now, because she’s used to being the best at these competitions but with these new (age) classes coming up (16+) she has to show up a little bit more. Just last week she qualified for senior provincials and that’s (geared towards individuals aged) 21 to 35  I believe, and she’s 15…so that’s huge,” said Sergenese, who later clarified that all ages can compete in the senior provincials but must meet qualifying standards.

Virtue is continuously setting personal goals to break and hopes to keep rising through the ranks in the industry, surpassing one of her highest previous achievements of second in Canada in her age division.

“Every muscle in your body is targeted (during snatch and clean and jerk); it takes mobility, strength and focus, which Maleeka has,” said Sergenese.

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