For the first time in the Match’s history, the men’s and women’s teams competed separately against their Oxford opponentsDik Ng/DKNG Photography

Crashing weights, loud cries, and claps of jubilation. No, I’m not talking about the scenes after Cambridge University Powerlifting Club (CUPLC) won their ninth-straight Varsity Match on Sunday (13/02), but the noise that echoed around the Sports Centre following every successful lift put in by the athletes of both Light and Dark Blue heritage.

CUPLC, voted Cambridge University’s “Club of the Year” back in 2020 and runners-up in the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) University World Cup 2016, triumphed over Oxford University Powerlifting Club (OUPLC) in this year’s Varsity Match.

For the first time in the competition’s history, the Cambridge and Oxford men’s and women’s teams clashed against each other separately. CUPLC’s Men took their victory by a well-fought margin of 21.72 points, while the Women’s match proved far more uncertain and suspenseful, with the Light Blues narrowly clinching the win by just 1.6 points.

Briefly addressing the competition format, each athlete specialises in three lifts: bench press, back squat, and deadlift. After three attempts of each lift, the athlete will earn a total that is made up of their heaviest lifts from the three categories. This total is then taken into account along with the athlete’s body weight and sex as part of the IPF GL scoring system, which produces a points total that is normalised in an attempt to represent performance as a percentage of that of a lifter with the same body weight. Put simply, however, lifting as heavy as physically possible is the aim of the game.

CUPLC’s Anna Clay completed her 140kg deadlift to help Cambridge secure the winDik Ng/DKNG Photography

Being CUPLC’s first Varsity Match since the start of the pandemic, a lot of the women’s team came into the matchup relatively fresh, with three athletes having never done an official competition before. Not that this stood in their way, as highest scorer Anna Clay, who lifted 322.5kg for a phenomenal 79.09 GL points, was one of those three.

The Oxford women brought a very strong side this year, and it was a fight for the win right to the end - given that, as a team, Cambridge scored 581.38 points, calling the 1.6-point winning margin narrow would be an understatement. Coming down to the nail-biting final deadlifts, Clay unfortunately missed her first two attempts before pulling 140kg with the full backing of the home crowd behind her. This then meant that the final four CUPLC lifters had to smash their lifts to secure the team victory, which they did.

OUPLC’s Sophie Smith was the final athlete to lift in the Women’s match, pulling an insane 172.5kg with the backing of both shades of blue.

Sophie Smith smashed a 172.5kg deadlift for OUPLCDik Ng/DKNG Photography

Fishwick’s side lifted tactically, as they marginally lowered some of the final deadlift attempts in order to be sure of making the lifts and securing the victory. CUPLC President Samin MoghimiAsl also put in a solid performance on the day, contributing a total of 76.14 GL points behind Fishwick’s 78.18. A 157.5kg deadlift for MoghimiAsl will stand out as a personal highlight.

Speaking on her group’s triumphant performance, Fishwick said: “The team was focused and drove the win home, displaying a level of strength and sportsmanship which will certainly quell any criticisms there may have been of having a separate women’s Varsity.

On a more personal note, I have never been prouder to be a woman in CUPLC and I am honoured to be the first Women’s Captain to take home the Women’s Varsity Powerlifting trophy. I look forward to returning to Cambridge and supporting the club once I have graduated this year, and seeing how the women who lifted so skilfully on Sunday - and those who the club cultivates over the coming years - add to the legacy of our nine-year winning streak.”

Men’s Captain Raghul Parthipan set a new club-record 230kg squat in the under-74kg categoryDik Ng/DKNG Photography

Glancing over to the Men’s competition, which started shortly after the conclusion of the Women’s, the Light Blues have been the stronger side in recent history, but the effects of the pandemic meant that the graduation of experienced lifters was not met with a steady supply of intermediate ones ready to pick up the mantle. This, combined with previous Men’s Captain Remi Rufus-Toye being out due to injury, current Captain Raghul Parthipan battling his own injury, and an Oxford squad that seemed stronger than anticipated, meant that a few months out there was real uncertainty towards CUPLC’s position.

Cambridge’s top two lifters of the day were Parthipan and fresher Brandon Teh, who will soon be competing against each other in upcoming British Universities (BUCS) fixtures. Parthipan took best overall lifter after completing all nine of his lifts and making a 30kg total personal best, also breaking CUPLC’s squat record in the under-74kg body weight category by recording an enormous 230kg lift. Meanwhile, Teh went toe-to-toe with Parthipan on bench, matching his Captain’s 140kg lift, and went on to post an impressive final score of 89.32 GL points.

Cambridge’s Miguel Ohnesorge recorded the heaviest bench of the day at 147.5kgDik Ng/DKNG Photography

Five out of Cambridge’s eight competitors went 9/9 on their lifts, performing well throughout the day and steadily increasing their lead over Oxford.

Reflecting on the win, Parthipan commented on his group’s flawless mentality: “Although powerlifting is an individual sport, we were a true team at the Varsity Match. A team like none in recent history. The goal was to win and the men put aside their personal ambitions of hitting certain numbers and making specific PBs, instead sticking to the game plan required to secure victory. We operated as a professional unit, each man executing what was necessary.”


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Pathipan continued: “We had three highly decorated powerlifters, in Suzanne [Goulder], Remi [Rufus-Toye], and Greg [Loosen], platform coach the men, hugely contributing to our performance. They did the thinking. We did the lifting. And we were further supported by many club members helping behind the scenes. Thanks to them all.

It was a terrific day and it will always be one of my favourite competitions. We managed to secure the double victory amongst an electric home crowd. It will be my last home Varsity and I’ll always look back on it, and my team, fondly.”

Looking ahead for CUPLC, the club will touch base with their Varsity teams and debrief on how things went, as well as work out how Cambridge’s lifters can further improve their craft. They also prepare for another significant competition next month in the shape of BUCS, where many lifters in the club will be competing, having qualified in various competitions throughout the year. In the meantime, CUPLC will continue supporting new and experienced members alike in their powerlifting journeys, nurturing new talent as they hope to continue their reign of Varsity dominance.