Sousanh Chanthalangsy-Bornilla is back from her first powerlifting competition, armed with a gold in her weight class and an award for best overall lifter.
The Yellowknife personal trainer and entrepreneur – she owns and operates the One of a Thai food truck – chose the fifth annual Brickhouse Power Challenge in Winnipeg for her first powerlifting competition.
With her cousin Linda Khoungkong as her handler, and family in the crowd watching, Chanthalangsy-Bornilla squatted 390 lb, bench-pressed 204 lb and, for the first time, deadlifted 418 lb.
The event differed from strongwoman events she had previously entered. Chanthalangsy-Bornilla said the International Powerlifting Federation’s more stringent rules require equipment checks, specific uniforms, anti-doping certification and the presence of several technical judges.
Competing alongside 40 other lifters, Chanthalangsy-Bornilla said bench-pressing 204 lb “came up pretty easy” once the nerves had gone. For the next competition Chanthalangsy-Bornilla said she’ll be increasing the weight.
In the deadlift, after discussion with Khoungkong, she decided to try a weight she had never attempted before.
“I pulled the 415 back in Yellowknife, but it was kind-of like a shaky 415,” she said. “I said to myself, you know what, let’s go big or go home. This is our last event. Let’s see if I can pull 418 lb.
“I just had the biggest smile ever and then everyone was cheering me on.”
Chanthalangsy-Bornilla’s gold medal came against one rival in her 84-plus kg category.
“I didn’t know I was actually competing against somebody else,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Yay, I’m just here to break some records on my own.'”
At the end of the meet she was also handed a black lifting belt emblazoned with “open female overall champion” in silver letters – her prize for overall best lifter.
Sousanh Chanthalangsy-Bornilla in a submitted photo, beside the male overall champion, in her championship belt.
Chanthalangsy-Bornilla first touched a weightlifting bar in 2014 and her love for the sport was immediate.
“When I started lifting weights, I realized I can actually lift heavy. And sometimes even heavier than most of the guys that I know,” she said. “It just makes me feel so powerful, so confident, and it gives you this rush.”
While she had previously focused on body size, and pressure to reach a certain size to feel or look good, lifting taught Chanthalangsy-Bornilla that didn’t matter to her.
“Lifting is like therapy because I go there and, when I lift, it just makes me feel a lot more confident and stronger … especially as a female,” she said.
Now, as a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness, she meets others who say they cannot lift weights. She enjoys hearing people derive similar pleasure from lifting weights they previously thought they couldn’t – “the best feeling in the world,” she calls it.
Self-taught until recently, Chanthalangsy-Bornilla has hired a powerlifting coach from Regina. She met her coach, Taunia Stevens, at a competition in the city. Stevens said she was impressed to see someone come from Yellowknife to compete in a rookie strongwoman show.
“It is an individual sport and it’s all about bettering yourself,” Stevens said of powerlifting, adding she thinks Chanthalangsy-Bornilla can go as far as she wants in the sport.
“I love her attitude because she doesn’t back down from anything,” Stevens said. “I’m super proud of her. She’s someone who jumps in with both feet. It’s a good attitude to have.”