Winning gold – a powerful moment for Ian Furman
South African powerlifter Ian Furman won gold at the World Bench Press Championships at Sun City on 28 May after more than 20 years training and coaching this sport.
“It was an emotional moment, I won’t lie,” said Furman of his first international gold win. “What was amazing was that with the championships being in Sun City, I could have my friends and family there watching me.
“It was also inspiring because there were lots of comments made by current lifters about how I have stuck with this for all these years and, at the end of the day, there was the reward,” he said.
“It was great to have my son, Justin, in the wings, who is going to go on to win a place in the Junior World Championships in Romania in August. Also, my wife and daughter were there to support me.”
Furman, who will be 56 next week, competed against the top 10 international powerlifters in the world, and won in his division of Masters Two for those weighing under 120kg in the 50 to 59 age group.
He told the SA Jewish Report that he took up powerlifting by chance. “I was always at the gym, and someone came up to me about 20 odd years ago and said, ‘You look strong, want to try your hand at powerlifting?’ I haven’t looked back since.”
He progressed from competing to coaching others and now coaches his son, Justin, and four other powerlifters. “The sport has grown here, and when we go to the junior champs in August, we’ll be taking about 25 lifters to compete.”
Getting into powerlifting isn’t difficult, says Furman, who dispels the “myth” that training with heavy weights stunts a person’s growth. “My son, Justin, at 6.5ft (1.98m) is proof this is nonsense. But you don’t just walk into a gym and start lifting heavy weights. You’ll hurt yourself. You need to have a coach to guide you and give you the right programme.”
South Africans are showing their prowess on the world stage, he says. “We have a top sub-junior girl, about 17, who stands to win the best in the world. And my son has a good chance of getting on the podium for junior male in his division.”
Powerlifting has become more and more popular in the Jewish community, although it isn’t the sport most would associate with Jewish people, Furman says. There are even a number of Yeshiva College pupils doing powerlifting.
“Lots of kids look up to my son, who went to King David, who has done so well in South African powerlifting. He has won so many national awards, and is now making it on the world stage. Youngsters see him and think, if he can do it, so can we. And so, the sport grows within the community.”
The appeal of powerlifting is that it enables him to “stay strong and healthy”, Furman says. “It’s an incredibly difficult sport, so it needs a huge amount of discipline. As a powerlifter, you have to set your own goals and achieve them, while still trying to get provincial and national colours and ultimately making it onto the world stage.”
He believes it benefits teenagers by enhancing self-discipline and any other sport they do. “My daughter is a swimmer and I have her doing certain movements that help her with that. We don’t let kids up to 13 lift massive weights, but we give them strength techniques that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.”