A biomedical scientist from Rhyl is aiming to “Raise the Titanic” as part of a world record bid to raise money for a cancer charity.
World champion powerlifter Nicola Polley, who manages the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s blood transfusion service for the central region, is part of a 12-strong team who will be attempting to lift the equivalent weight of the tragic cruise liner, which sank after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
Over 12 hours at a gym in Manchester on April 16 – exactly 104 years since the Titanic sank – Nicola and the team will be aiming to deadlift weights until they and others around the UK reach the total of 24,360 tonnes (24 million kilogrammes), the weight of the vessel’s hull.
As well as teams at gyms in north west England, Army teams around the UK will be taking part in the challenge, which aims to set a new Guinness world record, plus raise £10,000 for Macmillan Cancer Care.
Also taking part in the event in Manchester will be Prestatyn power lifter Katy West, 36, who works in Rhyl library.
But as a current British, European and World champion and record holder the event holds no fears for 40-year-old Nicola.
She only took up power lifting just over two-and-a-half years ago after suffering a knee injury and being advised by a physiotherapist that training squats would aid her recovery.
She said: “It was by accident really. I used to compete in roller derby, which is basically rugby on roller skates. I damaged my knee and was told squats would help get me back to full fitness a lot quicker.
“I started work in the gym and discovered I’m naturally very strong. I attend DL Fitness in Rhyl and the proprietor Dayle Longford, who is himself a world champion and has loads of world records to his name, talked me into giving power lifting a go.
“He taught me a lot and the following year, in June 2015, I entered the European championships, which were being held in Eastbourne and to my surprise I won the 90 kilo female class.
“I set new European records in all three lifts with a squat of 165kg, a bench press of 60kg, and a dead lift of 185kg. That led me onto the world championships which were held in September 2015 in Las Vegas.
“I was so nervous competing against girls from all over the world but won and set new world records for two lifts, squat and deadlift and a new record for highest total – squat 180kg, bench 72.5kg, and a dead lift of 200kg.”
She added: “I was amazed how much I had improved in just a few months but it was down to better training and improved technique. As part of a British elite squad I’m coached by Delroy McQueen, a multi world record holder based in Eastbourne.
“We video all my training and he then coaches me through what he has seen and as part of Team GB we all meet up for training camps every two or three months.
“I’m having a quiet year this year and just doing the odd competition, the British Championships and the Raising the Titanic challenge.
“I have a lot of national projects to complete at the health board but next year I’m looking at the British, European and World Championships. It’s not easy balancing work commitments, training and I have my family to think of too.”
However, Nicola says her husband Martin and sons, Jack, 17, and Seth, seven, and work bosses at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd couldn’t be more supportive.
She said: “My managers have been absolutely brilliant and allowed me time off to attend training camps and to compete. I make up the time I’m away but they have been brilliant about it.
“And my colleagues presented me with a pair of Union Jack earrings, to go with my team GB outfit, before I went to the world championships in Las Vegas. That meant a great deal to me. Everyone has been so supportive and I really do appreciate it.”
Chris Wight, BCUHB blood science service manager, Central, said: “I am delighted that we are able to support Nicola in her powerlifting challenges through flexible working, and I know her colleagues have rallied round to donate for this challenge for Macmillan Cancer Care.
“We wish her and the rest of the team every success on the Raise the Titanic challenge on April 16.”
Nicola intends to compete as long as she can but admits there are a lot of young women getting into power lifting.
She said: “It’s definitely getting harder, there’s no doubt about that. There are more and more girls getting into the sport and some are very good and are really pushing me.
“The guys at DL Fitness in Rhyl have been very welcoming and I happily train amongst them, sometimes new members can give me a strange look when I’m training as if to say ‘how can she do that?’ But they soon get used to it to be honest!
“I’m stronger than a lot of men and by using that strength with good technique I do pretty well. I’ve just got to keep going now.”
“The Raise the Titanic challenge is definitely going to be tough. I’m doing 10 repetitions of 100kg at a time. Some of the lads in the team are doing 150kg or 200kg reps. There’s two women and ten men that make up the team.
“We hope by the end of 12 hours to have lifted, between us, the weight of the Titanic which is around 24,360 tonnes. We are doing it for a brilliant cause in Macmillan Cancer Care. We are already up to £4,000 and are looking to raise £10,000.
“I train in Manchester quite a lot with a power lifter called Tania George and she suggested we took part in the event, which is being held at the Olympic Gym.
“It’s going to be a tough but fun challenge I really hope we can reach our fundraising target of £10,000 that would be the best effort of all.”