TACLOBAN CITY– Within the revered walls of gyms across the globe, an unassuming sport firmly commands the spotlight, sculpting physiques of steel and fortifying spirits of unwavering strength. Despite often being overshadowed by its more mainstream counterparts, powerlifting is undergoing a renaissance, attracting enthusiasts from all corners of society with its captivating allure.

Matthew Caharop, an 18-year-old student from Tacloban City, set a record at the 2023 Asian Classic Powerlifting Championship held in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, from December 12-18, 2023. (PHOTO COURTESY)

Powerlifting consists of three primary disciplines: squat, bench press, and deadlift, all of which demand physical and mental fortitude. Unlike other sports, powerlifting does not involve flashy routines or choreographed moves. Instead, it’s all about surmounting seemingly impossible obstacles through sheer strength.

Matthew Caharop, an 18-year-old student from Tacloban City, embarked on his powerlifting journey to the top as a mere leisure activity in the gym. He sought to challenge his endurance and push the boundaries of personal improvement. Little did he know that this pursuit would lead him to become a champion on the international stage.

“I started going to the gym as a leisure activity with my friends. We began weightlifting, gradually increasing the weight plates. As we progressed, my friends and I decided to participate in our first local powerlifting competition in Tacloban. It was a great opportunity for us to test our abilities and decide whether to continue, as we sometimes get injured. I realized my potential in this sport as I invested time and interest, and it eventually became a full-blown sport for me,” Matthew expressed.

Matthew embarked on the global stage at the 2023 International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Classic and Equipped Sub-Junior and Junior Powerlifting Championships in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, from August 24 to September 3, 2023. He emerged victorious in the deadlift sub-junior category and was crowned the 3rd overall champion.

His victory did not end there. He recently set a record at the 2023 Asian Classic Powerlifting Championship held in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, from December 12-18, 2023. Competing in the men’s 59 kg sub-junior category, he lifted a total of 517 kilograms, winning the gold medal in both the squat and overall lift categories. Additionally, he earned a silver medal in the deadlift and a bronze medal in the bench press.

Powerlifting is a journey that encompasses both physical prowess and mental and emotional fortitude. The athletes who take on the barbell challenge are not only conquering weights but also their fears, doubts, and limitations.

When asked on his thoughts about powerlifting, he shared, “It’s more like a way of expressing myself by transcending my limits on what the human body and mind can do. It is also a way of expressing myself by defying the odds and being dealt a bad hand, but you still prove that whatever unlucky situation you are in, you can still pull through.”

Matthew faced a challenging situation during his powerlifting tournament in Malaysia. He was not feeling his best, as he was panicking, fatigued, and dehydrated. To make matters worse, he had given in to the temptation of eating chocolates the night before the tournament and gained weight. Fortunately, the committee allowed Matthew to postpone his match for less than two hours to recover from his condition.

He reminisced about his tournaments and mentioned Bahrain as his most formidable competitor in powerlifting competitions in both Malaysia and Bahrain.

Matthew meticulously analyzed his opponent’s moves and weightlifting attempts, outsmarting them by exceeding the target weight. “I placed Bahrain on a pedestal in my mind. I thought that Bahrain was stronger than me. I respected him and deemed him a worthy opponent.”

In the end, Matthew shared his insights on the importance of believing in oneself and the ability to achieve one’s desired goals despite all the obstacles that come along the way. Additionally, he provided some valuable tips on powerlifting, such as investing in quality equipment, finding a reliable coach, and following a strict powerlifting regime.

Matthew’s story goes beyond mere medals and records. It embodies the true essence of powerlifting – a constant and unwavering pursuit of personal improvement. His journey is a shining example of what can be achieved through dedication and the right mindset. Aspiring lifters and fitness enthusiasts can draw inspiration from his transformation – from a novice to a world-class athlete.