Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Cipriana Castellano on Tuesday March 3, 2015 at the Fitness Place in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Cipriana Castellano on Tuesday March 3, 2015 at the Fitness Place in Soldotna, Alaska.

Area athletes ready for World Powerlifting Championships

Come for the world records. Stay for the sights.

That’s the attitude Kenai Central senior Cipriana Castellano and Soldotna junior Robin Johnson are taking toward the International Powerlifting Federation RAW Classics Powerlifting World Championships in Salo, Finland.

Both Castellano and Johnson compete Monday. Castellano left for Finland on Thursday while Johnson left Monday.

While the opportunity of flying to Iceland and continuing to Finland, for a 22-hour total flight time, has an exciting novelty to it, Castellano and Johnson have settled into a focus that might as well have them lifting at Kenai Central High School.

“They have both worked staggeringly hard,” wrote Rob Schmidt, Alaska State Chair for USA Powerlifting, in an email. “They are both technicians far beyond their years.”

For that reason, the two are more focused on the competition than the location of the competition.

“Now that I’m actually going it still seems kind of surreal, like it’s not really happening,” Johnson said. “Once I get my bags packed and I’m actually waiting to take off, it will hit me that it’s actually happening.

“But it still seems not real.”

Castellano said that one reason the excitement of traveling to Finland and competing in an international meet is not fresh is because the duo qualified for the Finland meet all the way back in July at the USA Powerlifting Raw National Championships in Aurora, Colorado.

“It’s just dragged on so long,” Castellano said. “So I guess I’m thinking, ‘It’s finally here, no way.’”

But after competing, both said the exciting opportunity of being in a foreign country so far away will set in.

Castellano will not leave until June 12 and plans to spend at least a day in the capital city of Helsinki, which at 620,000 people is the largest city in the country.

“It should be exciting to see some of the culture,” Castellano said.

Johnson, who will be staying until June 17, also plans to go to Helsinki.

“I’m excited to meet people from different countries,” said Johnson, who will be at a meet with about 800 lifters. “I’ve heard super great things about looking at the different buildings and eating the different foods.

“Everything will be so different.”

But first, the competition and the records.

“Many of these countries are Eastern European sport powerhouses,” Schmidt wrote. “But I fully expect that Robin and CC will completely dominate their classes.

“It’s nothing short of astonishing that two of America’s most talented teen lifters hail from the Kenai Peninsula.”

This will be Castellano’s second crack at international records and Johnson’s first appearance at a competition where international records can be set.

In March, Castellano competed at the Arnold USA Powerlifting Championships in Columbus, Ohio, setting three international records.

Competing in the category of women under 19 years of age and under 158 pounds, Castellano posted a record of 347 pounds in the squat, 385 pounds in the deadlift and 920 pounds in the three-lift total, which also includes bench press.

The problem for Castellano, who will attend the competition in Finland with her mother, Alisha Flieger, is she must compete in Finland at under 185 pounds, because that’s the weight she qualified at in Colorado. It was Castellano’s personal decision to drop the weight to compete at under 158 at the Arnolds.

“I’m having to eat a lot to put the weight back on,” Castellano said.

Her first goal is to take first place in her age class and weight division, which will take on added difficulty because she expects to be the lightest in her weight class.

Then, she would like to set some world records. In the deadlift, she will be gunning for the 396 pounds hoisted by Paige White of Australia.

Castellano has deadlifted 420 pounds, but that was when she weighed more than she does now. She’s hoping to deadlift 400.

In the squat, nobody has hit the world standard of 363 pounds yet. Castellano has squatted more than that, but again at a heavier weight.

“I’ve got high hopes to get that world record squat,” she said. “I know it’s a long stretch to make that one work.

“I’ve got high hopes, but it’s going to be harder with the weight drop.”

Castellano said the bench and three-lift total will be most likely out of reach.

“I’m going to be on the lower end of this weight class,” she said. “International judges are a lot more strict as far as hitting standards, rules, and holding the bar longer on your chest and above your head, so that takes away from your lift.”

Castellano also hopes the trip over to Salo, which is at sea level, does not take too much out of her. She said she learned from the trip Raw National Championships in July.

“When I got off the plane in Colorado I had the worst muscle aches from jet lag, to the point where I was crying,” Castellano said.

She said her plan heading to Finland is to be more active on the plane.

Johnson said she does not have as much concern about the flight over.

“I get there several days before I compete, and I will have really light training days while I am there,” she said.

Johnson, who will be accompanied by her mother, Rhonda Johnson, and coach, Ross Leppala of Wasilla, also said she does not have concerns about her weight. She will compete at under 158 pounds and under 19 years of age. International competition does not have her normal age category of 16 and 17 years old.

“I’m spot on with my weight right now” she said. “I’m perfect. I’m good.”

Johnson is focusing on hitting all her lifts and letting the accolades follow.

She would like to squat over 350 pounds, bench over 190 pounds and deadlift over 385 pounds. Castellano has international records at under 158 pounds in the squat at 347 pounds, the deadlift at 386 pounds and the three-lift total at 920 pounds. The world standard in the bench press is 198 pounds.

There are many variables come competition day, but Johnson said she hopes her training has her ready to perform.

“There have been days where I just haven’t been able to perform what the program planned, but in general I’ve been doing great,” she said. “I’ve only had one bad training day in the past eight weeks.

“This week has been phenomenal.”

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