Weightlifting title gives Woodkirk High School teacher a big lift

AT just 71kg and 5ft 9in Paul Cooper is not everyone's idea of a weightlifter – but the Woodkirk High School teacher has just become the British bench press champion.

And more amazingly still, the PE teacher and head of year seven won the title at his first big competition, after being in the sport just two months.

The 34-year-old from Cookridge said: "It was fantastic.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the competition in Birmingham, it was a real learning experience because I had never been to a power lifting competition before.

"I knew that if I lifted what I can lift I would have a chance but I lifted more on the day, 145kg, two and a half kg short of the British record, that's double my body weight."

Coming from nowhere as he has, other competitors might have resented Paul, but he said the atmosphere of the competition was very supportive.

Paul said: "People are really friendly, there is real camaraderie and everyone is encouraging everyone else, even if they are your main rivals."

This is the second sport Paul, who has taught at the school on Rein Road for 11 years, has excelled in.

"I was a national standard 800m runner when I was younger but finished five years ago and had a family," he explained.

"I was wanting a new focus. I've always done a bit of weight training, and because we have a really well-equipped weight room at the school, I started training there in the mornings.

"Because of how much I was lifting I got in touch with a power lifting club, the Steelman Power Lifting Club in Churwell, and from there things happened really quickly."

Just two months later Paul found himself competing against seasoned power lifters with many years experience.

"I have to put a lot of that down to my coach Barrie Nelson who has 50 years experience in the sport," said Paul. And he thanked the school for the use of the weight room and gym.

Head of PE at the school John Gill said: "Paul's determination and commitment to his training shows through in his teaching.

"We wish Paul every success in his next venture"

Paul is now looking forward to his next competition in Doncaster on June 6 when he will, for the first time, try to equal or exceed the British record for his weight class.

He added that he is looking for businesses or individuals to sponsor him and help him progress in the sport.

If anyone can help him they should contact Woodkirk High School on 0113 336 8140.