I sit in the high-performance centre at the RAWC, waiting to interview Richard Gonsalves, an Olympic weightlifting coach.

Around me there are tons of weights—weights too heavy for a scrawny girl like me: dumbbells that are twice my weight, barbells with weights being dropped left, right, and centre, and grunting weightlifters pushing their limit.

Not too many people know about the high-performance centre at the RAWC; it’s hidden by the elevators at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the bookstore. Confusing, right? (Well, try giving someone directions to any building or specific spot on campus. It’s impossible.)

After I’ve spent a few minutes of observing the happenings at the high-performance centre, Gonsalves is able to take a break from training some rowers to chat with me.

He introduces himself. He’s a fourth-year UTM student taking French and crime law deviance. He has been working at the RAWC since 2008 in various positions, including front desk, lifeguard, and trainer. His current position is Olympic weightlifting coach.

He started getting into weightlifting in 2010 when one of his coworkers at the gym said, “Hey, Rich, you wanna get big?” Being a scrawny young boy, Gonsalves took him up on his offer, and now lifts competitively. He is currently ranked fifth in Ontario—high enough to be on the Canadian senior national team. As a junior, Richard was awarded a bronze medal at the Canadian junior weightlifting championships in 2011.

When asked about his plans for the Olympics, Richard replied, “The Olympics are a long-term goal; there are a few other stepping stones in the process.”

To qualify for the Olympics, he must first participate in a number of other weightlifting competitions. These competitions include the Commonwealth Games, the World University Games, and the Senior World Championships. Gonsalves trains five times a week for three hours at a time with the club team at UTM. The team consists of nine people who also go to competitions.

He brings his experience as a trainer to his position as an Olympic weightlifting coach at the gym. “I do stuff that I did not do previously, with more emphasis on sport-specific training,” he said. The weightlifting training Gonsalves gives is part of the UTM recreational Olympic weightlifting program officially launched in September.

Last year, the program was put through a test run to find out if there would be any interest. Now that the program has officially launched, there are about 50 participants. “A lot of people wanted to learn how to lift, and I know how. I was in the right place at the right time,” Gonsalves commented.

Gonsalves does the training, while Nikki Robichaud and Andrew Bellerby do the organization of the program. “Nikki really helped us get organized,” said Gonsalves. “She’s the glue that holds us together.”

The program is designed for people who want to start weightlifting but don’t have the skills to do it competitively. Students and RAWC members can come in for a free assessment and then decide to join for either four or eight months.

The team holds classes in the High Performance Centre from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12 to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.