Sophomore Jin lifts his way to first place

This winter, a new club powerlifting team was founded, with sophomore Sean D. Jin coaching and leading the team. Jin is from Bergen County, NJ, and is studying statistics and machine learning at Carnegie Mellon, where he’s an active member of a business fraternity — Alpha Kappa Psi — and Korean Central Church in Pittsburgh.

The organized sport of powerlifting has its origins in ancient Greece, as do most games of athletic prowess, but contemporary organized powerlifting began in its current state during the 1960s when the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) started organizing world championship events for powerlifting. Since then, a slew of different organizations have created various leagues for powerlifting with different rules that allow or disallow doping, use equipped or unequipped setups, and recently, charging entrance fees for competitors.

The club team at Carnegie Mellon competes within USA Powerlifting, or USAPL, guidelines. That means there are three categorized events — deadlift, squat, and bench — that collegiate lifters all perform at a competition. They mostly compete within the “Teen” and “Junior” age groups, as they are 18 and 19-year-olds and 20 to 23-year-olds, respectively. Recently, Jin attended the Pennsylvania State competition of the overarching USAPL organization, and he said, “I won first within my age class and weight group, and there were about a total of 140 lifters in my class. I tried to break the state record but failed to do that. I just didn’t finish my squat.” Jin was competing in the Junior age group at the 83kg category, and he also won Best Lifter within the Junior age group, which is a metric scored on an equation using age, weight, and weight lifted. None of the other lifters on the Carnegie Mellon club team attended the competition.

Jin talked about his experience at the meet as well, saying that he was in the gym where the competition was held from 12 to 8 p.m., and he neglected to eat the proper amount before his lift: “Making weight is really hard. If you’re cutting a lot of weight and miss by a couple of grams, you’ll get screwed over for the weight class you wanted.” For the uninitiated, cutting weight for any weight class divided event can be a herculean task. I’ve seen friends who wrestled in high school walk around school all day spitting into empty water bottles, sitting in a sauna for hours at a time, and eating nothing but lettuce or celery before an event. One of Jin’s friends cut 17 pounds before an event, and then put it all back on within an hour or two after his lift.

Jin’s favorite experience at the meet, however, was the social aspect. Meeting other powerlifters with the same intensity as Jin is a rare occurrence, and would only happen at a competition, like the one he attended. Jin said, “I came to the meet by myself, and I ended up talking to like 15 different people. I got their Instagrams, and will hit them up whenever there’s a competition, which is super dope.” Downtime is a large part of an eight-hour experience where you only compete for a handful of minutes, but Jin said, “It was a genuinely fun experience. You get to meet people you’ve never met before.”

As for the powerlifting team, it’s still a work in progress. Meetings for the group only started in January, and they’ve struggled to find the right times and places to meet; they haven’t been allowed to use the training room in Skibo, as it’s reserved for varsity athletes, and working around personal schedules on the team and the schedules of those working out in the gym in the Cohon University Center is difficult. It’s currently impossible for the powerlifting team to reserve a space for themselves in the way many other club sports are able to do with the turf fields around campus. Beyond powerlifting goals of making it to USAPL Nationals, Jin wants to make sure that the team is actually able to compete in a meet sometime, and for a team that just started with little infrastructural help from the college, there’s a positive outlook for the growth of powerlifting at Carnegie Mellon.