Tukua bags first NZ title, eyes worlds
Joshua Tukua lifts bags by day and weights by night.
The 22-year-old Wellington hotel porter is New Zealand's new 83kg junior powerlifting champion after squatting, benching and deadlifting his way to the title in Christchurch.
Tukua's combined total of 665kg over the three disciplines included a 230kg squat, 147.5kg bench press and 287.5kg deadlift.
It was all the more impressive considering that the nationals were just his second official competition after making his debut for Central Districts in a recent regional tournament in Palmerston North.
"I'm so stoked. I wasn't expecting it at all," he said. "It's just been a hobby to be honest. I stumbled across the sport a couple of years ago ... I just saw some guys pushing some heavy weights and thought, 'I wish I could do that', and I could."
Though powerlifting isn't an Olympic sport, Tukua is now targeting the International Powerlifting Federation's junior World Championships in Prague next September.
Before then he hopes his feats at the nationals will earn him a place in the New Zealand team to compete at the Oceania Championships in Melbourne this year.
Tukua competes in the raw category of a sport which also includes an equipped division where lifters are allowed to wear supportive braces and clothing in search of greater weights.
His raw lifts are impressive for a bloke who weighs a notch under 83kg, but the man who got him into the sport provides a reminder of how far he has to go to reach the top echelons of the sport.
Masterton man Brett Gibbs' feats have become legendary after he won the 83kg junior category at the world championships in South Africa in June, marks which also double as New Zealand 83kg open records.
Gibbs squatted an incredible 280kg, benched 185kg and dead lifted 305.5kg for a total of 770.5kg in Johannesburg breaking some junior world records in the process.
"Brett's pretty much the guy who got me into it competitively. He basically said he reckoned I'd be pretty good if I took it seriously.
"He's also my biggest competitor, but it's his last year in the junior division and then he's moving up to the seniors. Powerlifting is a sport where you get better with age."
Tukua trains six days a week out of the Powerhouse Gym after working as a porter at the Intercontinental Hotel in central Wellington.
A YouTube video he posted this year shows the lengths powerlifters will go to in search of new personal bests with the footage showing him passing out mid-lift from the exertion of a deadlift before falling backwards and dropping his weights.
The Dominion Post