A PASSION for weightlifting has paid off for a husband and wife team, who have been crowned European champions in the sport.
Tom and Naomi Sheppard, both 24, were chosen to represent Britain in powerlifting – a form of weightlifting which involves lifting weights in a sequence of squat, deadlift and bench positions.
And the couple showed off their strength by each scooping the top prize – Tom lifting 305kg and Naomi lifting 150kg.
They were joined in the competition by of their powerlifting group, who train in members Kenilworth.
Tom, who is a personal trainer and is founder of the group, told the Observer: “Winning was of course a terrific feeling and one that was shared by the whole team through each other’s successes.
“When you suffer together through the months of hard work and discipline then you become so invested in each other’s performances.
“But the main satisfaction came from simply putting in the hard work over the months of training and knowing that on the day you couldn’t have done any more. As long as you work hard and do your best you can always leave with your head held high.”
The couple’s top score means they will automatically compete in next year’s competition in Finland.
The accolade is a great achievement for Tom, who started powerlifting after being diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia.
At an all time low in 2011 he attempted – and thankfully failed – to take his own life.
The following day he woke up and vowed never to starve himself again.
Instead he chose to focus on improving his body by lifting weights, and he hasn’t looked back since.
He said: “Instead of harming I chose to focus on improving for the better through lifting weights. It was an obsession, and perhaps to an unhealthy extent, but it was definitely better than what I was doing previously.
“Powerlifting has given me direction in my life and for both myself and Naomi to get to the point where we compete at international level gives me immense pride in both myself and her.”
The couple used the European Championships to help raise money for mental health charity Mind – which is close to Tom’s heart after his battle with mental illness.
He said: ““I want to raise money for mental health charity Mind so they can help those who were in the same dark place as I was back then.
“Sadly most people who go through what I went through have no help and even feel ashamed to talk out about it. Even worse, many are successful in their attempts to end their suffering.
“No-one should ever have to go through that pain alone and scared without help.”
Visit www.justgiving.com/itgetsbetter to donate or contact Thomas on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about powerlifting.