IPF Classic Worlds went down in Killeen, Texas last week, and if you have any kind of social media there is a good chance you’ve seen some of it. There were some incredible stories coming out of the week. You might have seen Jennifer Thompson bench 141.5 kg, Ray Williams squat 438.0 kg, or Jessica Buettner deadlift 202 kg (she’s only 21 – wow!) Powerlifting even made it’s way into mainstream New Zealand media, possibly for the first time ever.
What I’m going to talk about here is what has been touted as the most watched session in powerlifting history, the Open 83 kg men. As I’m writing this, there’s been nearly 40,000 YouTube views, and there was apparently three times as many live watchers as any other session. If you haven’t watched it, here’s a link to the video (Bill Kazmaier and Johnny Candito do the commentating too, they do a pretty good job.)
Meet the Competitors
The reason this session was so hyped was because we had two absolute world-class athletes going head to head, Brett Gibbs and John Haack. Beyond that, my favourite lifter, Owen Hubbard, was competing in the Open 83 kg class for the first time ever (there will be a future post on why Owen Hubbard is one of the baddest MFs on the planet.)
Brett Gibbs is in his second year in the Open age class, and going into this meet was the defending champion. In training, he’s totaled just shy of 830 kg, including a 300 kg squat, but has historically been inconsistent in his competition performances. He’s also a really cool guy, and would probably look quite at home on a Lord of the Rings set with a battle axe. I talk about Brett Gibbs a lot because he is a kiwi (like me!)
John “The Chemist” Haack
I don’t know much about Haack, other than
- He moved to the IPF from another federation
- He’s a chemist by trade
- He’s a junior, but decided he would rather go toe-to-toe with Brett Gibbs in the Open class than take the easy win as a junior
- He has huuuuge quads
#OHubbaHubba is a British powerlifter – if you know him, you probably know him as the guy who sets up for bench by driving his forehead into the bench. Although he has got a great bench, he is also one of the most passionate lifters on the platform. He’s an associate nutritionist by training (he gave a seminar on nutrition at the online powerlifting summit earlier in the year), but from looking at his social media, it looks kind of like he survives mostly on pizza.
Owen Hubbard opened his squat at 255 kg, and began the day with what appeared to be a massive grind. Fortunately, Hubbard doesn’t give two fucks what any body thinks, because the commentators didn’t think he had much squat left in him. John Haack hits an incredibly easy and deep 270 kg, and Gibbs hits a relatively slow 277.5 kg. Owen Hubbard comes back and hits 265 kg at what appeared to be RPE 11. At this point, myself and the people I was watching with thought he might not take his third squat, because even for a person with a massive capacity to grind, that looked hard. Brett Gibbs and John Haack both took 285 for their second squat – Haack’s looked easy, locking in his first Junior World Record of the day. Unfortunately, Gibbs couldn’t give a strong lock-out and he made a double movement at the top of his range of motion, giving three red lights.
Obviously, I’m cheering for Brett here, and with that double movement he might have cost himself the World Championship. What a grim start to the meet.
Owen Hubbard comes back for his third squat, putting 270 kg on the bar. I honestly didn’t think he was going to get this, but he went Super Saiyan or something in the waiting area, and his third squat looked easier than his second – he might have even left a little in the tank.
John Haack had nominated his third squat at 298 kg, and Brett submitted his third as 288, presumably to clinch the World Record in the event that Haack missed his third. Unfortunately, Brett didn’t have the gas to take the the 288. John Haack’s attempt selection was on-point (on fleek?) though, nailing a deep 298.
At the end of the squats, John Haack was in the lead, with Gibbs trailing by 20.5 kg, and Hubbard 7.5 kg behind that.
John Haack started the bench press out with 185 kg, which confused me a little, as he has apparently hit 215 in the gym. A couple of things went wrong with Brett’s 190 kg opener – he received an oddly long press command, which he jumped (I assume that he thought he had missed it, and just went, but I’m not entirely sure.) Missing the command earned him three red lights, despite an easy lift. Brett’s handler, JP Cauchi, tried to appeal the lift but was turned away by the jury. Before the next lifter approached the platform, JP had a “quiet talk” with the head referee (I would love to know exactly what he said.) Owen Hubbard hit an easy 195 kg opener.
For the second attempt, John Haack jumped 10 kg to 195 kg, and Brett Gibbs matched him, with Owen Hubbard finishing off with 202.5 kg. Brett’s press command was much shorter this time – whatever JP said made a difference.
On the final attempt, Haack elected 200 kg, which seemed conservative. He/his coaching team knew what they were doing though, as it looked like an absolutely limit lift. Brett Gibbs elected to take 208 kg to snatch the World Record, making it look like an opener. Hubbard chose 208.5 kg to try and take the WR on the very next attempt, but missed it just off his chest.
All in, the bench press was relatively uneventful. Brett managed to make back 8 kg, but was still 12.5 off the lead. I was slightly disappointed that Owen didn’t take the World Record, and I’m still hoping to see him hit 220 kg in competition.
I guess this is the business end of the meet – medals are won or lost, and legends are made. Going into the final discipline, Brett needs 12.5 kg to catch John (and thus win on body weight). John Haack has a great deadlift, but Brett wants it more than anyone, ever, and so if anyone can make it up, it would be him.
Owen Hubbard opens his deadlift at 255 kg (by the way, if you’ve never watch Hubbard deadlift, you should find a video). Brett opens with a very speedy 285, and John at 292.5. Owen comes back to pull 265 kg for his second.
John Haack has called for 310 kg, and Brett for 305. For Brett to have any chance at taking the Championship now, he needs 305 kg to move like an Opener. Fortunately, it’s probably the fasted > 300 kg deadlift I’ve ever seen. Coach JP submits 322.5 for a third. Haack comes in to pull 310 kg, but he almost fails to get it past his knees! At this point, it looks like Brett might just snatch victory back from the jaws of defeat. John submits 317.5 kg for this third.
Owen Hubbard comes back for his third attempt like a man possessed – what a pull.Much yelling and intensity on the platform, and a great grind to finish off a good 8/9 day, giving him a 745 kg total and 501.09 wilks.
Someone made the call to drop Haack’s third deadlift, bringing it down to 315 kg. It was one of his sloppier lifts of the day, but his attempt selection was perfect again – there probably wasn’t another kilo in him. Personally, I thought he hitched, but I might be biased and he got three white lights to finish off a perfect 9/9 day, giving him an 813 kg total and 543.49 wilks.
The world championship came right down to the last deadlift – Coach JP submits 327.5 kg for the gold. Brett Gibbs managed to get the bar past his knees, but could finish the lock-out, and with that, missed out on his second Open World Championship. That left Brett with a 790.5 kg total, and 529.32 wilks.
I was in a bit of shock after that session. The ups, the downs, everything coming down to the last deadlift. While it wasn’t the result I wanted to see, there was a fantastic battle, great intensity, strategy and, of course, fantastic lifting. As a spectator, you can’t ask for more.
Owen Hubbard gave it his true 100%, and didn’t leave anything on the platform. Coming third behind Gibbs and Haack is amazing, and he probably had the best day of the three of them.
It wasn’t Brett Gibbs’ best performance ever, but, like the professional he was, he made all the right decisions and came back strong. John Haack deserves a massive amount of respect following that performance. Going a perfect 9 for 9, the quality of decision making, stepping up to lift as an Open at just 23… Next year is going to be another great fight, and I’m already looking forward to watching it.
So, that’s all folks. Hope everyone’s training is going well, and see you on the platform soon (I’m three weeks from the Auckland Bench-Press Championships!)