2017 Arnold Sports Festival: Top 10 Lifters to Watch!

2017 Arnold Sports Festival: Top 10 Lifters to Watch! 2017 Arnold Sports Festival: Top 10 Lifters to Watch!
AuthorGreta Schumacher
Publishedon February 16, 2017

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Estimated Reading Time: 7-9 minutes


Image produced by the Arnold Sports Festival and USA Powerlifting.

The Arnold Sports Festival is fast becoming one of the biggest events on the IPF calendar, both in terms of size (i.e. number of lifters) and popularity (i.e. attractiveness for top lifters). This competition is unique in that there is prize money on the line for lifters who succeed. This year, the summed total prize money on offer is $42,000 USD! There is no money on offer at a World Championship (equipped or raw) or even the highest profile event that the IPF is involved in, The World Games. So, the Arnold Sports Festival is a fantastic competition which brings in the best lifters that the IPF has to offer from all over the world. In this article, we preview 5 women and 5 men that are a must watch at this year’s festival. So without further delay, let’s get into the list!

Heather Connor (USA, -47kg)

Turning 26 this year, Connor is only new to the sport having competed in her first international competition at the Classic World Championships in 2016. She managed a very respectable second place finish behind Maria Luisa Vasquez (PUE) with a 350kg/771lb total squatting 122.5kg/270lb, benching 62.5kg/137lb and deadlifting 165kg/363lb. These numbers will certainly seem conservative come competition day as her training has been going splendidly. She has moved to a low bar squatting technique and is now squatting 150kg/330lb conservatively as well as deadlifting 186.5kg/411lb in training which, in competition, would increase the WR by 11.5kg. In my opinion, Heather Connor is the next big thing in female Powerlifting and I can’t wait for her to show everyone why. Check out how her training has been going below! You can catch Heather at the Grand Prix, starting at 9am Saturday March 4.


🏆PB ALERT🏆 . . . As some of y'all know I smashed my hand really bad yesterday after squats so I didn't deadlift. Fingers are still looking kinda rough but I saw it as a minor set back that I WASNT going to let me stop from going forward. Today was a new day. Today, I chose to deadlift after my bench single.... best choice I've made. . . . 1x1 of 186.5kgs/410lbs .RPE 9.5 . . BW 45kgs/100lbs . . . I will also no longer be doing the raw challenge at the Arnold. I'll be doing the Grand Prix on the main stage Saturday where you don't stand a chance if you don't have a 500+ wilks 😤😤😤 it's play time my friends . . . .nothing without the hype @dominicrowden @awoods_3 . #47kg #roadtoworlds #roadtobealrus #roadtothearnold #usapl #usapowerlifting #sbd #sbdusa #teamusa #ipf #theipf #beefpuffbarbell #sbdapparel #girlswhopowerlift #minipuff #beefpuff #deadlift #girlswholift . . . @ariantank @sbd.usa @sbd.usa @sbd.usa @sbdapparel @theipf @beefpuffbarbell @a7intl @marksmellybell @caffeineandkilos @girlswhopowerlift @jasonmanenkoff165 @bigredmanny

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Elizabeth Craven (AUS, -52kg)

Australia’s best ever raw Powerlifter, 3rd best in the world last year and City Strength sponsored athlete, Liz Craven comes into the Grand Prix, in my opinion, as the top female seed. Last year in New Zealand, Liz set her first open WR by squatting 153.5kg/338lb which chipped the legendary Suzanne Hartwig-Gary’s (USA) record done in Killeen. Liz added a second open WR to her collection by deadlifting 180kg/397lb for a 418.5kg/922lb total adding 1kg to the total WR formerly held by Sofia Loft (SWE). Liz is the living embodiment of hard work and her training has certainly reflected that putting up some very impressive numbers in training including a 155kg/341lb squat single and a 180kg/397lb beltless deadlift. Check out her WR setting deadlift in New Zealand! You can see Liz battle in the Grand Prix starting at 9am Saturday March 4. Honourable mention should also go to Marisa Inda (USA, -52kg) who will push Liz all the way in the Grand Prix.

Ok here it is. The lift that meant I broke 6 World Records today. Open squat, M1 squat, M1dead,M1 dead again, open total WR and M1 total WR. 180kg/396lbs I'm just so happy and grateful to be part of this sport. Don't let anything stop you from working towards your goal. Age is nothing, being a mum is not the end. Because you have never applied yourself before does not mean to cannot apply yourself now. Find what you love and work hard at it . Man it just makes your life so much better. #lifelessonswithliz Thank you all my sponsors @citystrength @kingapesupps @gymmealsdirect @weightsandmatesclothing Also special thank you to @5trong for fixing my deadlift. Shoutout to @calgarybarbell for your awesome YouTube! I did it!!

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Jennifer Thompson (USA, -63kg)

 Jennifer Thompson is quite simply the best raw bench presser, male or female, that has ever lifted in the IPF. Thompson was competing in the Grand Prix but is now only doing the Pro Raw Bench. She recently benched 144kg/317lb as a lightweight -72kg lifter at the Reykjavik International Games with plenty to spare. She’s nominated in the -63kg class for the Arnold hoping to extend her own single-lift bench press WR currently at 141.5kg/311lb set in Killeen 2016. Thompson will turn 44 this year and keeps better and better, an outstanding woman. Check out her 144kg bench just 3 weeks ago!


Kimberly Walford (USA, -72kg)

Another outstanding woman is Kimberly Walford who also just competed in Reykjavik setting a new deadlift WR with 243kg/535lb! The uniqueness of the Arnold is that there is a deadlift only event, the Slingshot Pro Deadlift, and this is where Kim shines. You can also compete equipped in the Pro Deadlift so expect her to go over 243kg and considering her best in this meet is 255kg/562lb, ~240kg/529lb will probably be an opener. Kim also holds the total WR in the -72kg class with 540kg/1190lb and will attempt to win her 6th Classic World Championship in Belarus this year.  Walford will turn 39 in 2017 which will make her a Master’s 1 lifter next year. If she stays healthy, it will add her to the short list of Master’s lifters setting open WR’s which currently include David Ricks (USA), Jennifer Thompson (USA), Dennis Cieri (USA), Hifon Smith (USA), Brad Gillingham (USA), Aliaksandr Hrynkevich-Sudnik (BLR), Inna Filimonova (RUS), Ielja Strik (NED) and Liz Craven (AUS). Check out her 243kg deadlift below! 


Liane Blyn (USA, -84kg)

Last but certainly not least is 2016 Equipped World Champion Liane Blyn. Blyn is also a M1 lifter and is steamrolling over the Dutch legend that is Ielja Strik. She won comfortably last year to win her second Open World Championship, with a 10 year wait between drinks! Liane is known as an extremely good bench presser as she currently owns the open WR at a staggering 190.5kg/419lb but is also a solid deadlifter with her American record set at 227.5kg/501lb! Liane is competing in the Grand Prix against Kimberly Johnson (USA, -57kg), Ellie Steel (GBR, -57kg) and 2016 Classic Junior World Champion Victoria Vargas (USA, -52kg) and looks good to win it! Videos featuring Blyn are scarce but here she is at the 2015 Open World Championships where she finished second to Valeria Timoshchuk (RUS).


Blaine Sumner (USA, 120kg+)

Blaine Sumner is arguably the most popular Powerlifter right now, but more importantly, he is the best equipped Powerlifter in the world following his performance at this meet last year. He became the first man to squat 500kg/1102lb in single-ply equipment and then became the second man to bench press over 400kg/881lb with 401.5kg/885lb in single-ply equipment. He then went to pull a lifetime PB of 370kg/815lb to increase Carl Yngvar Christiansen’s (NOR) total WR by a monstrous 41.5kg with 1271.5kg/2803lb! Blaine’s stellar 2016 continued where he won his first Equipped World Championship, cruising home with a conservative 1200kg/2645lb total to beat compatriot Joe Cappellino by 65kg. The one thing Blaine didn’t do was improve on his Arnold’s performance in 2016 and I look forward to what’s to come in 2017! Relive Blaine’s incredible performance and his take on the meet below.

Kevin Jaegar (GER, -120kg)

21 year old Kevin Jaegar is in my opinion the best junior equipped bench presser in the world right now. Jaegar burst onto the scene in 2015 where he set his first open bench press WR with 333kg/734lb in Oroshaza, Hungary at the Junior Equipped World Championships. Since then he has proven that he can match it with the best that the -120kg class has to offer where he broke the open single-lift bench press WR in Rodby, Denmark at Bench World’s with 343.5kg/757lb. At the same meet, legendary Japanese lifter Shinji Ueda pressed 355kg/782lb and forced Jaegar to add even more to his game. Thankfully, he did, 5 months later Jaegar smashes 356kg/784lb at the same meet where he made a name for himself, Junior World’s. 356kg is now the 3-lift and single-lift open WR by a man who still has 2 years left in the junior category! Fun fact: Jaegar wears a size 42 shirt which is a size commonly worn by -83kg lifters! You can catch Kevin in the Grand Prix in the Equipped division. Check out how easy 356kg was!


Julian J.K. Johansson (ISL, 120kg+)

Julian J. K. Johansson is a name that isn’t well-known in the Powerlifting game, but remember this name! He is a big deadlifter and he showed this recently when he went to the Reykjavik International Games where he pulled 365kg/804lb raw, the biggest deadlift in international competition in the super heavyweights since Brad Gillingham’s (USA) 375kg/826lb WR in 2013. He is also the current deadlift gold medallist from the Equipped World Championships having pulled 380kg/837lb on a second attempt before he went 390kg/859lb for a junior WR but unfortunately missed. He will be competing in the Slingshot Pro Deadlift where he will be competing equipped without squatting and benching prior so he certainly has the potential to take home the title for the heaviest pull. Check out his 380kg pull at Equipped World’s, easy! 



Garrett Blevins (USA, -105kg)

If you’re outside America, chances are you don’t know who Garrett Blevins is and I would join you in that group. Blevins is nominated in the Pro American at 867.5kg/1912lb which is 6.5kg above the current WR, held by Stephen Manuel (GBR) who is also competing in the Grand Prix. I did consider Manuel for this list but I went for Blevins as more people need to know about him. So I did my research and turns out that this total was based off his performance at USAPL Nationals back in October 2016. His 320kg/705lb squat (which was incredibly conservative) was an American record and is 11kg off the WR held by Manuel. His 220kg/485lb bench press was conservative as well and is 3.5kg off the WR held by Florian Loock (AUS). His 327.5kg/722lb deadlift sealed the unofficial WR total. He’s battling some injury setbacks but is still able to hit some impressive numbers and I think the WR total will be his! Check out his performance at USAPL Nationals!




Ray Williams (USA, 120kg+)

Lastly, the best super heavyweight raw Powerlifter the IPF has seen and considering his competition experience, he could be the greatest ever. Ray Orlando Williams is a high school football coach, SBD sponsored athlete and was the first man to squat 1000lb+ raw in an official competition. He has certainly exploded onto the international scene following his incredible performance at the 2014 Classic World Championship and has continued to progress. Now under the guidance of two of the best coaches in the world, both from a training perspective and competition perspective, Matt Gary and Suzanne Hartwig-Gary, Ray seems unstoppable in competition. Last year though, Ray did not have the best competition, almost bombing on squat having to take 412.5kg/909lb twice before before being successful on the third. His meet got better and totalled 1012.5kg/2232lb to add 4kg to his total WR. At USAPL Nationals, Ray squatted the legendary 456kg/1005lb, benched 240kg/529lb and pulled 383kg/844lb to chip Brad Gillingham’s deadlift national record and is 8kg above Gillingham’s deadlift WR. I expect Ray to extend his squat WR, finally break the deadlift WR and extend his total WR. Ray is competing in the Pro American with the best Canadian super heavyweight Kelly Branton in what will be a fantastic battle. Relive Ray's epic USAPL Nationals performance below!


The Arnold Sports Festival begins on Friday March 3!


More information can be found here and the roster for each event can be found here.


Until next time, train hard, train smart and dominate on the platform.


Tim Davies – Team PB Powerlifting

Instagram - @teampbpowerlifting

Facebook – Team PB Powerlifting

Email – t.davies@hotmail.com.au

AuthorGreta Schumacher
Publishedon February 16, 2017