Powerlifter retires with distinguished legacy

Retired powerlifter Wayne Cormier points to a photograph in his large collection of medals, trophies and memorabilia from his career.

A powerlifting journey with many memorable moments and achievements is coming to an end for Swift Current powerlifter Wayne Cormier, who has decided to finally retire from the sport after five decades.

He decided it was time to retire for the final time from this extreme sport shortly after celebrating his 58th birthday in February.

He had a quiet birthday celebration with his wife and two children, and it just came to him that his family is more important than the weights.

“My time has come and gone, and that's the hardest thing for an athlete to realize that your time has come and gone,” he said. “You're no longer that elite athlete. I mean, I used to get paid to powerlift and it's no longer the case. I get paid nothing. I'm old, as far as an athlete goes in powerlifting. So I've come to terms with it.”

It was a very tough decision, but one that became inevitable due to ongoing injuries that made it impossible to continue.

“I still have the heart of a lion,” he said. “I still would love to compete, but I can't put my health at risk anymore. My hamstring hasn't healed, my shoulder tear hasn't healed, and when you compound years of excessive lifting, the blood pressure is now a problem. It has medical attention, it's being treated, but the heavy lifting is no longer a choice that I can make.”

He still competed successfully in August 2020 at the Global Powerlifting Committee (GPC) national championships in Regina. He won four gold at that event and he set a new national bench press record in full powerlifting as well as records in the individual squat and deadlift categories.

His intention was to compete at the 2020 GPC world powerlifting and single lift championships in Regina in October 2020, but it was not possible due to injuries.

“This is age catching up,” he said. “The tools in the tool kit are not there. The heart's still there, but it's just no fun. It's not fun to go to the gym and train heavy and prepare for a competition. It takes a minimum of 26 weeks to prepare for a high-level competition. It's not fun when you're training in pain and then you come home and you wake up and you're in pain all the time. It's just not fun anymore.”

This is not the first time he retired from the sport, but he knows it is different this time. There will not be another comeback.

He grew up in Lennoxville, Quebec, and his first medal in powerlifting was a silver at the 1977 Quebec Games when he was 14 years old. He moved to Moose Jaw after school and immediately made his mark as a junior lifter by winning his first Saskatchewan provincial title in 1981.

His first retirement due to injuries happened in 1999 after achieving a longstanding dream to win the Canadian Drug Free Powerlifting Championships Champion of Champions Cup as the overall best lifter in Canada.

He came out of retirement in 2003 to compete at a world championship event in Regina, but he sustained a significant injury and went back into retirement. His desire to compete again resulted in a comeback to the sport in 2015, and the past few years have been very successful.

In September 2015 he set a new provincial bench press record at the Saskatchewan Powerlifting Association’s provincial powerlifting and bench press championships in Weyburn, where he captured his 14th provincial title.

In December 2015 he won a gold medal in the bench press competition at the Western Canadian Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships in Moose Jaw. He completed his comeback year to the sport with a bronze medal in February 2016 at the Canadian Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships in Regina.

In February 2018 he won gold in the bench press only competition at the Canadian Powerlifting Union National Championships in Calgary, and in December 2018 he set a new national bench press record at a Global Powerlifting Committee tournament in Regina. He broke that record again at the GPC Nationals in Edmonton in May 2019

He won a gold medal and a national bench press title at the 100% RAW Powerlifting Federation’s national championships in Medicine Hat in June 2019. He was also ranked 46th in the 100% Raw Powerlifting Federation’s top 50 all-time rankings for male bench press contestants in the master (40+) category.

Cormier has no regrets about his comeback, even though the return to competition also resulted in more injuries. He enjoyed the competition and renewed fitness he achieved through his rigorous workout routines. He continued to coach during the years when he was not competing, but this comeback was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the sport.

“Probably really the most important thing is that my kids finally got to see me lift, because in 1999 neither of my kids were born,” he said. “They only got to see the VHS tapes, and so they were actually there. I got my son accredited as a support staff so he could come in the back as I'm warming up, and I got him accredited, which is huge for a young kid to be accredited. … That was nice for the kids. It lets them know that the stories are real. So that was wonderful. It was a wonderful experience that I could share with them and now my son is powerlifting.”

Cormier’s powerlifting career includes 15 Saskatchewan provincial powerlifting championship titles, he won eight Western Canadian powerlifting championships, and he also won 13 national powerlifting championships. He currently is still holding five national powerlifting records and four of his provincial powerlifting records were retired in 2010, which means they are archived and those four records can never be broken.

“I would first say that I'd liked to be remembered as a good powerlifter for a long time,” he said about his powerlifting legacy. “I was never a great powerlifter. I was a good powerlifter for a long time, 45 years, and I think that's a fair self-assessment of my achievements.”

He is also proud of his contribution to powerlifting as a coach and administrator, and he feels he contributed to the level of professionalism in the sport.

He received the International Powerlifting Federation’s Order of Merit in 2002 for administrative excellence. In 2003 he was inducted as a builder into the Canadian Powerlifting Union Hall of Fame and in the same year he received the Saskatchewan Powerlifting Association’s lifetime achievement award. In 2019 he was inducted into the Moose Jaw and District Sports Hall of Fame as a builder in the sport of powerlifting.

According to Cormier there were two key influences on his powerlifting career. One was his mother, who bought his first set of weights for him in 1974 at the local Sears store.

“She bought me that, because I was a scrawny kid and I wanted to get in shape,” he recalled.

The other major influence was Pyles Gym in Moose Jaw, where he started training in 1981 under the guidance of gym owner Dave Pyle, who was one of Canada’s most successful wrestling coaches.

Cormier established lasting friendships while training at Pyles Gym and during the last few years he has been coached by Bill Pyle, the son of Dave Pyle.

“I'm the last member of Pyles Gym to be still competing,” Cormier said.  “So this closure is significant, because it really closes a chapter of Pyles Gym. So there's some sentimental stuff there too.”

He will continue to be involved with the sport as a coach. He is currently coaching six powerlifters, of whom two are from Swift Current, three are from Maple Creek and one is from Moose Jaw. He is also planning to spend more time on the golf course, because he has always enjoyed the game and he was actually a provincial golf champion when he was in high school.

“You know, we tend to find things to fill our day, and for years it was powerlifting,” he said. “Now I fill my days with my kids and my wife, and I know that I have to find something.”

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