BP: Tony, you're often thought of as one of the best all round powerlifters in the world right now, which has only been reinforced by your recent world championship, how do you feel about that sort of label?
TC: Ha ha, I’ve never been exceptional at any one of the lifts, I’ve always just chipped away at all 3, I guess that makes me an all-rounder. I’m very grateful to be considered as that, I’ve never really given it much thought to be honest. I’ve always felt the 125kg and 120kg classes have always been ultra competitive so looking around at the competition at Worlds and Europeans for the last few years and being able to hold my own against those guys has been satisfying, but to finally win that world title has been more of a relief to finally get over the line than anything having been close a number of times.
BP: It took you a lot of time and hard work to get to be world champion, did you always believe you'd make it?
TC: No, but then it never really started out as a key ambition. I loved training, loved the feeling of getting stronger and have always been very competitive, the beauty of this sport is you can mark your performance more readily against yourself than in many other sports. I’ve come home from winning competitions and been deeply dissatisfied with my performance, come home from others without a medal but performed really well and been very happy with what I achieved. The kgs lifted is a very real and very humbling measure of performance and its there right next to you every time you train.
BP: Did you ever want to give up? Can you talk about your motivation for keeping going and getting to where you are?
TC: Again, no, I love training, the ups and downs, the feeling of progression and finding ways to improve. The motivation to train doesn’t really exist with me, it’s just part of who I am, part of my routine, so I don’t really struggle from that perspective. I’ve lost out on a few medals through the result of some high profile drug cheats on the world stage and that was hard to take, but again I’m not motivated by the win more the desire to improve so keeping going was always easy.
BP: For anyone new to the sport, it can be pretty imposing, seeing some very strong people, what advice can you give to new lifters in powerlifting?
TC: Everybody in this sport is on their own journey and following their own path. Take solace from the fact that everyone started somewhere and usually a lot further back than you think. Others rise meteorically seemingly from nowhere to heady heights, for most this is not the case, focus on yourself. I’ve met a lot of very, very strong people over the years and 99% are the most humble, self-effacing and wonderful people you could hope to meet, so take advantage and ask them lots of questions. If you want to improve quickly you need to learn from others mistakes, not just their successes.
BP: You've talked about how equipped powerlifting is still alive and well, in a world where it seems like raw lifting is king. Tell us about your feelings about raw and equipped lifting, and comparisons between them?
TC: Comparing raw and equipped powerlifting is a bit like comparing Rugby Union to Rugby League, if you knew nothing about the sport on the face of it it would look very similar, but obviously once you are in the detail it’s clear they are very different.
I’ve heard some say that equipped lifting is like professional powerlifting and raw is like amateur, I think that’s a bit condescending and disparaging to classic lifters. It is true though that mastering equipped lifting is very much more difficult than mastering raw, there are certain styles of lifting that have to be used to get the most out of the equipment. Some lifters will already naturally adopt these styles thanks to their natural build, other lifters with different builds have to adapt and learn these styles to be more successful in the equipment (more upright, sitting back, knees out squat style etc).
I think equipped lifting will have a strong come back in the UK in the not too distant future, the sheer numbers of lifters we have now will lead to this eventually.
BP: Besides your world championship, what do you feel are your greatest achievements in the sport?
TC: A 1000kg Equipped total. A 900kg classic total. A 300kg equipped bench. Winning my first international medal (silver in the deadlift at Worlds in Puerto Rico – 2012). A 600 wilks. Winning the European Equipped title in 2018. Winning the European classic title in 2017.
BP: What do you feel is left for you to achieve in the sport, and who do you most admire?
TC: I’d like to win an Equipped worlds (no easy feat) and I’d like to compete in a World Games. I admire anyone who lifts on a powerlifting platform. It takes a lot to take that first step and do your first competition. I’ve had a few lifting icons over my time in the sport that I’ve admired from a lifting perspective, but I think as you get older you start to realise that your admiration starts to drift to those that have committed themselves to improving and developing the sport over time and that are or have given back selflessly to the sport I love. Luckily for us in the UK there are too many people to list.
BP: You’ve very recently become the Chair of the athlete’s commission for British Powerlifting, how do you see the role and what do you hope to bring to it?
TC: The role of chair of the Athletes commission is an important responsibility to ensure the board of British powerlifting are hearing the voice of the lifters. Up to now, communication and feedback from the lifters in all aspects of how British powerlifting operates (National championships/international performance/the calendar/refereeing /coaching to name a few) has been lacking, so my first objective is to ensure we have the tools and channels open for feedback and data to be gathered, analysed and fed back to the board, undoubtedly opening up avenues for improvement, recognition and best practices in all areas of operation. Feedback is critical so I need all the lifters help to ensure your opinions are heard.
BP: Lastly, what makes you happiest?
TC: My family make me happiest, my wife Eleanor, my daughter Freya (4) and my son Jack (1). Since we had Freya my success on the international platform improved markedly, I put this down to wanting to make her proud so making smarter lifting decisions but also a removal of pressure in that I know, no matter what happens from a lifting success perspective I still get to go home to a loving family.