I am thrilled to present you the following interview. Damon Kelly, from Australia, is the 2010 105+ Commonwealth championships gold medalist (Delhi) where he set a clean and jerk record of 221kg, beating his 217 clean and jerk record from 2006. In 2008, at the Olympic Games (Beijing) he placed 9th and he placed 6th at the World’s championship. During that year, he also won a gold medal at the Commonwealth championship and at the Oceania championships. He also has a website, a blog and a facebook page. Damon’s best lifts to date are a 176kg snatch, 222kg clean and jerk, and a 310kg backsquat, amongst other. Needless to say, Damon has achieved a lot in this sport and I am glad to have had the chance to interview him.
Without further ado… Here is the interview
FP : Your wikipedia page says you were involved in Rugby and Shot put as a teenager. It says you even set a college record in Shot put. How long were you involved in those sports? What was the shot put record?
DK : I played a lot of sports all through out my time at primary and secondary school. I played cricket, rugby union, rugby union, aussie rules and athletics (shot, discus and javelin). So I had always played sport when a weightlifting club started up at school. I had played all or some of these sports from about the age of 9. I think the record is 16.10m for U/17 age group. Nothing really impressive but a record still.
FP : Did you discover weightlifting through these sports as a mean of physical preparation?
DK : I guess a little bit. A few mates and myself just started dabbling in the weights room to get us stronger for athletics and rugby. We didn’t really have a plan but just went to the gym anyway. It was around that time, Mike Power, a father of a student a year above me at school, set up and started at weightlifting club at school. So we decided to give weightlifting a go as we were already trying to do some gym work.
FP: As a 15 years old kid, what attracted you to weightlifting? What made you eventually quit Rugby and Shot put to focus on weightlifting? Did you have to turn down any scholarships when you switched to being a full weightlifter?
DK : Initially it was just to give it a go. As I mentioned earlier I played and enjoy a lot of sports, so it was just another sport to have a go at. I didn’t really think about taking it further but rather just enjoyed the challenge of the sport and competition. I kept playing all the sports I was already involved in as well as weightlifting while I was at school. I only continued rugby union after school where I was offered a scholarship to the Reds Rugby Academy. At this stage I was training 4-5 times a week with weightlifting and 2 times a week and a weekly game with rugby union. I knew that I had to go one way or the other soon as that amount of training wasn’t sustainable. It was a tough choice but weightlifting won in the end. I think it was the passion of the sport I developed over the 4 years competing and getting a taste of international competition that got weightlifting over the line. Sometimes I think about what if when I players that I played against playing full time and earning the big bucks but I definitely made the right choice and have been loving it ever since.
FP: In one of our chat, I remember you telling me that you had a bodyweight of over a 100kg at 14 years old. Here, bigger kids often get recruited in football which makes weightlifting a 2nd or even a 3rd sport. As a teenager, was it hard to be a soon to be 105+ elite weightlifter?
DK : I was always a big kid from the start. I would have been around 100kg when I was 12/13 and was 123kg in my first weightlifting competition as a 14 year old. While I was at school I didn’t really think of becoming an elite weightlifter. I enjoyed the competitions and travelling to different National Championships. It wasn’t until I left school and my weights kept going up that I thought I could make Australian teams etc. Initially I just really enjoyed weightlifting, which is probably more important than any physical attributes you need to become a good weightlifter.
FP : We often hear that 105+ lifters develop over more time than say 77-85kg lifters (their peak seems to happen later). Having been involved in weightlifting as a teen yourself, would you have any advice for weightlifting coaches who are involved in coaching heavier teenagers?
DK: Just have some patience. Us bigger kids might take a bit longer to get into the correct positions and obtain the flexibility require but if they enjoy the sport then just encourage them. I guess the same can be said for all beginners and younger lifters. The more they enjoy the sport then the more they will come back. It’s a tough sport so you need to enjoy it to keep on going.
FP : I hear you are also involved in coaching a bit now. How is it working out?
DK: I am enjoying the coaching side of weightlifting. I have been coaching school kids on and off for the past 10 years but more regularly since 2011. I coach at the school I attended and I am lucky to have a couple of teachers that are also keen on weightlifting and the school supporting me in having weightlifting at their school. I thought I was a patient man before I started coaching kids but it has taught be to be more patient. I really enjoy giving the kids the opportunity I had while I was at school and also seeing them develop and compete. We have a squat of around 10 boys all with various experience and ability but they all enjoy the sport. A few have gone on to represent Queensland at an U/15 and U/17 level and I would like to see them continue on in the sport.
FP :Your coach is Miles Wydall. Has he always been your only coach or were you coached by others as well?
DK: Miles has been my coach pretty much from the start. Initially when I started weightlifting at school Mike Power was my coach. After about 6 months he saw the potential in me and thought it would be good if I trained at Cougars Weightlifting Club. It is from there that Miles has coached me, which has been now about 15 years.
FP : What does the training program he prescribes to you look like (vaguely: general programming, frequency of training, exercises, etc.)?
For the past few years I have done double day training where the sessions have ranged from 8-10 sessions a week. Generally I would do my double days on Monday, Tuesday and Friday with single sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday morning. Generally we have 2-3 heavy sessions a week depending on how we recover. Friday and Saturday are always our heavy days with Friday being heavy technical and Saturday being heavy strength. Tuesday evenings are also heavy depending on how we recover from the Friday/Saturday sessions. The morning sessions of our double days are generally strength exercises like squats, pulls, RDL’s, presses and in the evening we would do more technical and one or two more strength exercises. We use power movements as well as lifts from block both power and full as different variations during the week for our technical exercises. Generally we use a 12-week program building up to a competition with 5’s for strength and 3’ for technical early in the program. Then the reps will drop down to 3’s and 2’s for strength and 2’s and 1’s for technical right up to the competition.
FP: What are you focusing on in your training at the moment?
DK: At the moment I’m just trying to get back into a solid routine. Towards the end of last year I had a lot of interruptions to training and couldn’t string together more than one week of consistent training. We have our Commonwealth Games Trials in 15 March and that is what I am building up to currently. I am hoping for this building to get me back into swing of full training and get within 5kg of my best lifts. After that I am hoping for some PB’s later in the year.
FP: I know that you often battle with our own Canadian 105+ lifter, George Kobaladze. Can we expect a 180/225/405kg from you?
DK: That is what I will have to lift if I want to win gold in Glasgow. George has set the pace with a big 400kg total. Those are the weights I would love to do. So hopefully this year of training will be good to me and I can get close to those weights.
FP: What’s the best lesson you learned from your coach?
There isn’t really one lesson. I would say that the best thing that I have learnt from my coach is the whole attitude/philosophy to training. Getting the quality sessions out when you can but ultimately your body decides when you have had enough and when you can push it.
FP: How is the weightlifting scene in Australia? Any people to look for?
DK: The weightlifting scene is ok. We have a lot more numbers competing than we have had in the past but a lot of the newer members are adults and masters. Ideally I would love to see the same increase in the Youth and U/15 age groups but we will get there. There have been some good performances by some Youth lifters. I have a couple at my club, Cougars Weightlifting Club, Josh Wu and James Norman who have been lifting for a while now have had some great performances last year. Rachel Goodman is dominating the female Youth age group and is also ranked number 1 in the junior age group as well. So hopefully they stick at it and we can see some big lifts from them all over the next few years and some medals at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
FP : If I’m not mistaken, you are also a husband and father. How does being a father actually changed your training or your life as an elite athlete?
DK: Yes over the last year or so I got married and we had a baby boy, Patrick. It’s a hectic but fun journey. The obvious change is time management and less sleep. The first few months were a steep learning curve but very character building. It definitely changed the order of priorities in my life but it has also given me more focus for my training. Even though there will be and has been time where I will need to miss training and competitions it’s a great thrill.
FP: Can we expect to see you in RIO 2016?
DK: Maybe if I save up some money for flights, accommodation and tickets to the weightlifting haha. At the moment I haven’t thought that far ahead. If this year goes well with training and I can get some decent weights up again then it might be a possibility. So I would have to say let’s just wait and see at the moment.
FP: What is the diet of a +105kg lifter like?
DK: To be honest I think it’s just bigger portions. I try and follow a fairly well balanced eating plan with wide variety of food sources. I don’t set out to eat whole chickens every meal or anything like that. But as you can probably tell by looking at me I have a sweet tooth. So maybe a couple of extra sweets haha.
FP: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. It’s always great to discuss all things weightlifting with people who ”have been there, done that”. Do you have any final words?
Thank you for interviewing me. I enjoy reading your articles on First Pull and it’s great so see another person passionate about weightlifting. If anyone is interested they can follow my progress to the Commonwealth Games on my blog or on Facebook or if anybody wants to ask me any questions I am happy to answer them.