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Middleton’s Derek Smith a contender at world powerlifting championships in June

Derek Smith can pull 586 pounds off the floor in the dead lift. In powerlifting circles that makes him the strongest person in his age division in Canada. In fact the Middleton Grade 12 student, who trains at Fitness Experience, holds three national records. In June he goes to worlds in Calgary.
Derek Smith can pull 586 pounds off the floor in the dead lift. In powerlifting circles that makes him the strongest person in his age division in Canada. In fact the Middleton Grade 12 student, who trains at Fitness Experience, holds three national records. In June he goes to worlds in Calgary. - Lawrence Powell

Grade 12 student holds three national records

MIDDLETON, NS - Derek Smith holds four provincial and three national powerlifting records. Now he’s getting ready for the International Powerlifting Federation Classic World Championships set for June 12 in Calgary.

The Middleton Regional High School Grade 12 student is strong, and while he’s been training at Fitness Experience since he was 12, it’s only his second year of powerlifting competition. He’s in the sub-junior category – 14 to 18 years old and is quickly making a name for himself.

Last October he went to the Eastern Canadian Championships and did well.

“There I finished first and set the Canadian squat record and attempted the Canadian bench press record,” he said. “But I only got the squat record.”

But his results were good enough to send him to nationals this February in Calgary.

“In Calgary I squatted 525 pounds which wasn’t a Canadian record, wasn’t a provincial record – just a good number to put up,” he said. “Then bench press -- I bench pressed 335 pounds.”

He needed to pull 575 pounds in the dead lift to secure a spot at worlds in June.

“So on my first attempt I pulled 545 pounds for a successful lift,” he said, “and then on my second attempt I secured my spot on the national team for worlds in Calgary with a 575-pound dead lift. Then on my third attempt I went for the Canadian record at 586 pounds – and I got it. So now I hold three out of four Canadian records and four out of the four provincial records.”

Started Training

While he’s only been powerlifting for a few years, he’s been a regular fixture at Fitness Experience for quite a while.

“I started back in, I’m going to say, 2012. I was about 12 years old. I had Danny Frame approach me. He was a teacher at the high school and asked me if I was interested in throwing heavy things and I said ‘sure.’ So I came out and he introduced me into Highland Games and weight lifting,” Derek said. “I got my basics from him. Then I moved on I’m going to say a year-and-a-half, two years later I started training with Danny Steele and Jim Nickerson and they brought me into the powerlifting scene. I stuck with it ever since and I’m both involved in Highland Games and powerlifting right now – Highland Games more in the summertime.”

Derek can be found at Fitness Experience in Middleton dragging old tractor tires around down in the basement, or working out on the main level with more traditional equipment. It’s his second home.

“Ever since I was 12 this gym has done wonders for me,” he said. “Fitness Experience, the people here, (owner) Jamie Peppard, Danny Steele, Jim Nickerson, Danny Frame – they’ve all helped me along the way to get to where I am today. I live not too far from here, so it’s basically my backyard. In the run of a week I’m normally in here four or five days. It could be anywhere from an hour-and-a-half up to two-and-a-half, three hours at a time.”

Other Sports

Derek has never been a stranger to sports.

“When I was younger I tried hockey, I played hockey for seven years. I played badminton. Believe it or not -- I don’t have the physique of a swimmer -- I did swim in the summertime competitively,” he said.

And he was big into track and field.

“I went to nationals to represent Nova Scotia in 2015 for discus where I placed 10th,” he said. “And then I realized I probably wasn’t going to get much further with track and field and decided to close that chapter off in my life and move on to the Highland Games and powerlifting.”

Asked which he prefers, Derek said that’s a tough question.

“They’re both very technical events where you need a lot of strength,” he said, “but they both are awesome events.”

About going to Worlds he was more specific.

“You just have to come in here with the mindset that you’ve got to be the best and you want to be the best,” he said.

He’s learned from some of the best in the world and he’s watched them over the years.

“You’ve got to watch and learn,” he said. “It’s not only listening to them but also watching what they do and trying to get tips from just watching them.”

Jamie Peppard

“Jamie Peppard, he was a big strongman guy, played rugby, football, hockey – was just a mutant,” Derek said of the Fitness Experience owner. “Danny Frame, he’ll be going to represent Canada in Germany this September for the World Highland Games Masters Championships. And he’s going for a Guinness world record in caber toss at Heart of the Valley Days – and that’s very impressive. Danny Steele, Jim Nickerson, they both did powerlifting back in their days, both did Highland Games and are very well-rounded athletes.”

Derek said the atmosphere at Fitness Experience is like no other gym.

“The friendliness, but yet competitiveness, between everyone here is just unreal,” he said. “Everybody wants you to do your best. We have people that are 14 years old all the way up to 80 years old here. Both male and female. It’s awesome to see.”

Peppard has only praise for Derek.

“I think he’s legitimate,” Peppard said about Derek Smith. “Since he’s been involved at the gym, which has been quite some time now, he really epitomizes what we like to see in young people when they come in to our facility. Not only has he devoted himself to his training, but he works at the gym, he’s a gentleman, he’s respectful of himself and other members and works as a role model to other young kids there. And probably more importantly he takes that back to school with him. A lot of respect for his work ethic, and more respect for him as a young man.”

At Worlds

“He’s really taken all those things around discipline that it takes to train and make it to the level he’s made, and he’s taken that into his life, which is what we hope,” said Peppard, noting that he thinks they have a good strong group of mentors at Fitness Experience. “We love to see young athletes come through there. The track record really speaks for itself. We’ve got a number of female Canadian champions.”

At worlds, Derek will be competing in the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

He’ll train a bit smarter, he said, making sure he gets his proper rest days, proper nutrition, but also making sure he’s not overtraining.

“I think going in is to have not too much expectation,” he said of the Calgary event. “Just go in and remain calm and do what you’ve been doing for the past five years. Enjoy the experience. It’s not all about the lifting. It will be about meeting new people, watching new people. You’ll be with the best people in the world. That’s pretty crazy.”

About powerlifting and Highland Games, Derek thinks he’ll be sticking with it.

“They’re both sports that I can do up until I’m 85 years old if I really wanted to,” he said. “There’s classes for everyone. It’s definitely something I want to keep doing in my future, keep me going.”

Like Peppard said, Derek isn’t always training when he’s at Fitness Experience. He works four to five hours a week at the front desk.

“It’s good to give back to what’s given me so much,” Derek said.

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