Surrey lifter bound for Commonwealth Games

FLEETWOOD — 163+205=368.

That stark equation scrawled in the top corner of a chalkboard means little to a casual observer, but for Surrey’s Parm Phangura, it means a lot.

The chalkboard in question is located in the garage of his Fleetwood home. Five-year-old daughter Talia has taken over the lower reaches of the board, but the rest of the surface is Daddy’s. The Canadian national team weightlifter trains in the garage and each time he hoists another mass of iron, his eyes naturally travel to the chalkboard.

163-kilograms for the snatch.

205-kgs for the clean and jerk.

368-kgs total.

These are the goals the 34-yearold Phangura has set for himself when he competes at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which begin this week in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Games are important to Phangura, and not just for the sport and pageantry. He knows these will be his last on such an important sporting stage and he wants to make a lasting impression. The chalk numbers are more than obtainable as they both fall within his personal best lifts and now that all the training is over, he wants go out on the best possible terms.

"I’m going to cherish everything about competing at an event as big as the Commonwealth Games," he said. "And when my turn comes to compete, I’m going to leave everything on the platform."

Phangura has been lifting for most of his life, but is a latecomer to international competition. He grew up in Quesnel where he was inspired by local lifter and Canadian national team member Paramjit Gill.

"I got to know Paramjit Gill when I was in high school," Phangura said. "We used to watch him train and we thought he was amazing. The guy had a superman physique and all of us normal kids, we all wanted to be like that. So that’s how I got introduced to weightlifting."

Years later, Phangura moved to the Lower Mainland where he met up with Gill again. Phangura resumed weightlifting as a hobby and after a while, he began to get good at it. He entered his first

competition and when he was successful, that fueled him to work even harder.

Phangura qualified for the Canadian championships on his first attempt in 2001 where he finished in first place. He won again the following year and in 2004, he got a taste of international competition when he won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Championships in Malta.

"When I went to nationals for the first time and won, I thought,

‘Wow, this is easy,’" Phangura said.

"I had some success with it and I was happy with that, but I really didn’t have the guidance to see what I could do. I didn’t know what the Commonwealth Games were at that time. If I had known about it, I would have pursued the Commonwealth Games in 2006, but I really didn’t know about it. I didn’t know about the Pan-Am Games in 2007 either. I found out about it after the fact.

"So I thought to myself, ‘Hold

on here. I’ve already done all of these championships and the top tier of lifters are all going to these games. I want to do that too.’" At the time Phangura was a full-time student for a career in occupational health and safety and was working at a job on the side. As much as it appealed to him, becoming a full-time athlete was not his top priority.

"I had to keep my priorities straight," Phangura said. "I didn’t want to be a full-time athlete and

that’s why I established a career.

That’s number one for me because that’s what puts food on my table. Weightlifting is my passion and I get satisfaction from it, but it doesn’t pay the bills."

Phangura kept these priorities straight while pushing himself harder in the gym. He represented Canada at the Pan American Championships in 2008 and in 2010 he was thrilled to earn a spot on the Canadian team for the Commonwealth Games in India.

His first big international competition turned into a nightmare when he came down with a severe case of Delhi Belly days before he was slated to compete. The heavyweight contender lost 15 pounds in three days and while he gutted it out and competed, his results were far from his normal weight totals.

"It was still an unbelievable experience for me," he said of the Commonwealth Games. "For those two weeks that I was there I learned so much. There’s not much I would change apart from getting sick. I met people from different countries and saw how they trained and everything like that. It was a great experience.

"I learned what I should have done and how to do things a little bit differently. I learned there and I’ll pay attention to details like that in Scotland."

Upon returning to Canada, Phangura resumed his training. He competed at the World Championships and the Pan American Games in 2011 and in 2012, he was back at the Pan Am championships.

Now he will be boarding another jet bound for the 2014 Commonwealth Games where he hopes to stay healthy so he can turn in more impressive results than his first Games experience in India.

"When you’re young you take everything for granted," he said. "Now that I’m nearing the end of my competitive career and have been around a lot longer, I cherish everything about the sport. I enjoy every training session and knowing what I’ve been through with injuries and bad competition results and good competition results, I cherish all of the memories and the experiences.

"I know the Commonwealth Games in Scotland will be my last and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it."

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