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All Washed Up

(This story was published in 2004).

By: Chris Morgan

Special To Outsports

News Flash: Morgan won the silver medal in the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Finals in Atlanta in November. His lift totals were: squat (237.5 kg, a personal best); bench (112.5 kg) and deadlift (242.5 kg) for a total of 592.5 kg. "Not a bad result in tough circumstances away from home," he said.

(Editor's note: Chris Morgan of England is a rarity: an out elite athlete. A champion powerlifter, he will compete in Atlanta this November in the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Finals. He will share his experiences, both before and after, with Outsports readers. Check out his Website).

LONDON--Gold at the Sydney Gay Games in 2002 seemed like “job done.”

I returned from Sydney to an overwhelming response from British Powerlifting, with many of my peers sending messages of congratulations. International Powerlifter magazine even published a full-page feature documenting a British win abroad.

Dave Murphy / Outsports.com

Chris Morgan at the 2002 Gay Games

Morgan doing a 500-pound squat

Little did I realize that this tremendous support, respect and acceptance was to be my very downfall in 2003. My motivating factor since 1998 had been homophobia in sport, with the treatment of gay athletes such as Justin Fashanu (an out soccer player who committed suicide) my mental trigger.

Returning to the fray in March 2003 in an attempt to qualify for my first British Championship Final the fire was missing. Failing on my final lift in the Divisional qualifying meant another year watching the nationals from the sidelines.

The pain was almost too much to bear.

The British Championships are the show piece events of the year in British Powerlifting and are the bridge to International competition. Without making the nationals there’s no chance of advancing to International competition.

The failure to make the grade in “straight” competitions was beginning to become a real burden. I decided to take some brave decisions and move gyms, change schedules and return to coaching myself in preparation for the London Divisional in October 2003.

I decided to use a training schedule that was completely different to anything that I’d ever used before. Using lighter weight for five repetitions instead of heavier weights for sets of three’s two’s and one’s.

The resulting performance was a disaster, with my first squat of the day almost placing me in hospital. I hit the bottom and literally did not move anywhere; the spotters were as surprised as me and they all were caught sleeping on the job.

My knees were heading for the floor with a very large weight on my back. For a split second my career flashed before my eyes and memories of serious injury that ended my previous sporting career came flooding back.

After three failed attempts … Bomb Out!

This was the lowest point in my career as this failure signified that fact that I’d literally tried every possible schedule and training combination. All other aspects of my routine were world class--diet, advisers, health, lifestyle.

The frustration of not delivering results was leaving me with some serious doubts over my personal ability and talent. It was December 2003 and I was seriously considering walking away from my sport.

I felt all washed up and was suffering some serious motivational problems. Since returning from Sydney my peers had offered complete acceptance and respect making me realize that my reason for competing had run it’s course. Homophobia in sport had taken me all the way to my win at Gay Games.

But the support of my peers had undermined my reason for competing and my use of homophobia as my sole motivational tool. It was time to take a serious look within myself to find reasons to continue.

I decided to spend New Year on the U.S. West Coast visiting friends and doing some real soul-searching. Meeting up with my old friend Scott Villiquette and explaining my doubts and feelings of wanting to walk away from powerlifting. I simply did not know what else to do in order to succeed.

Scott won a World Masters Gold Medal in 2001 in Cape Town and seeing his world medals filled me with inspiration. It was while looking and handling Scott’s medals that I realized that world medals were very much part of my purpose.

Homophobia is still a motivating factor and will always be there in the background, but my balancing factor has become my journey to find my own level of self-acceptance.

Being able to rest peacefully having achieved my maximum potential has become a major part of my motivation. Winning a world medal is part of this acceptance and has become a major factor in my overall purpose.

Scott encouraged me to look at all the information available to me one more time, to revisit all my training books, look at the trends, the good and the bad. Before leaving Los Angeles, he encouraged me to give it one more shot.

The first two weekends in January were spent transferring all my training figures for the last six years to spreadsheets. Compiling all the information into one source enabled me to see trends, patterns and messages.

My search for the correct formula had come down to one last effort --fusing elements of all the different methods and schedules from the six years and molding them into one ultimate schedule.

Ironically, the schedule that resulted from the project was almost identical to the first one that I ever wrote back in 1998, when I knew nothing about my sport. My first impression of strength conditioning had been 95% correct. There were many lessons.

Listening to others was not always a good thing, trusting my inner instinct was a good thing, finding the courage to follow that instinct, daring to be different and to never stop believing in myself!

The results after six months of hard work speak for themselves: Southeast Division Champion of Champions Bronze Medal Qualification for two British Championship Finals. The First Gay man ever to lift in a British Powerlifting Final. Second place in The British Drug-Free Powerlifting Final International. Elite Grading in the British Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation.

I’m very proud to be representing Team England in the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Final in Atlanta this November. I’m also filled with pride at the thought of representing every gay man and women who‘s participated in Gay Games.

I’ve learned to never quit, never walk away and always take one more look.