Seventeen-year-old Eli Frew from Noosa, Queensland, is leading the way in the Junior division of The Weightlifting Platform’s online competition.
Eli was introduced to weightlifting through CrossFit at about the age of 12, having to go into the gym while the rest of his family either trained or coached. Eli’s dad and two sisters are diehard CrossFit fans.
“He started going in and sitting down at CrossFit Boxes and then he started doing CrossFit Kids,” Eli’s dad, Jay, explains. From there, he started doing more of the adult classes as he got older.
Now 17, Eli lives and breathes weightlifting — especially now that the Noosa Barbell Club has opened up.His love for the sport was made very apparent by the “Hookgrip” T-shirt he was wearing while we interviewed him.
Along with the normal challenges of being a teenage boy and growing up, Eli has Down Syndrome. To explain this in its simplest form, Down Syndrome is something that someone is born with, caused by an extra chromosome that can affect cognitive ability and physical growth. This is something that can now be detected before birth but also has no cure.
But Eli refused to let this dictate what he could do in life. “Before the COVID shut down [Eli] was swimming three times a week, doing CrossFit twice a week and weightlifting three times a week,” Jay says.
So it’s safe to say that Eli is a very athletic kid who loves getting out and pushing his body just like any other teenage athlete.
We spoke to Zac, his support worker. “He’s just a chilled out person, loves to hang out with the boys, has fun and works hard. We push him now and again in training, he moves well and is a great little athlete.”
A lot of the time people with Down Syndrome have hyper mobile joints due to lax tendons and ligaments. You can see this when Eli goes overhead in his snatches or jerks. Because of this, Eli puts in the work and completes a range of accessory movements given to him by either his coach, Woogi, or physio. Strengthening the muscles around the joints can help secure those joints throughout their full range of motion.
With the support of his family, Woogi and Zac, Eli entered into his first QWA competition in January this year.
“His first comp with the AWF was the first round of the QWA comps. We didn’t even really put much weight on, we just wanted to see how he’d go on the platform in front of a lot of people. And he absolutely loved it!” Jay says.
When asked why he enjoyed being out on the platform, Eli replied “the people clapping and cheering me on”.
Having such a supportive coach as Woogi can make all this difference in anyone’s training, and you can see how much of an impact he has had on Eli’s life.
“He’s such a friendly kid, he’ll walk into the gym and high five everybody. He’s really good and makes time for every single person in the gym,” says coach Woogi. “He’s just a bit of a pleasure to be around and just brings a bit of excitement to the room.”
That type of comradery can be invaluable in a gym. It lifts people’s spirits and not only puts a smile on everyone else’s face but let’s them know that everyone is welcome and encouraged to do their best no matter what.
Without a doubt you will see Eli at competitions in the future. There is no stopping this young athlete now. Eli had planned to compete in is his age group Nationals this year but with the lockdown and not knowing what is going to happen with competitions later in the year, Eli may just have another year working with Zac and Coach Woogi to get stronger and better and, in 2021, come out and show Australian weightlifting what he can do.
We look forward to following Eli’s progress and seeing what he can do in the years to come.