Renaissance teen juggles art, acting and lifting

SURREY — Please forgive Michael Hungerschafer if it seems like he is living a double life.

Such a description of the talented teen is remarkably unfair. The truth is, if anything he leads a triple, possibly even quadruple, life.

“My friends think I live secret lives,” he said with a laugh. “I do so many different things that I have different friends from the different things I do. My weightlifting friends don’t know my art friends because those circles don’t overlap. The same thing with art and theatre  — the two groups don’t mix at all.”

Most teens have a packed schedule during their final year of high school, but Hungerschafer makes many of his classmates look like slackers. In addition to his schoolwork — some of which is part of the advanced International Baccalaureate program — the 18-year-old is one of the top high school weightlifters in the province, an aspiring artist and an actor who dabbles in cooking when he has the chance.

“It’s all about being well rounded,” he said. “Each of the activities is a means of release for me. They fulfill a different need for me and, well, I’m a needy person I guess. The weightlifting may seem strange compared to the other things I do, but for me, it fits what I want to do.

“Compared to other sports, weightlifting is right for me because it’s the root of so many other sports. It’s the backbone of living a healthy life. It keeps me fit in every regard.”

Hungerschafer has been weightlifting since he was in elementary school. He has dabbled in gymnastics and diving in the past, but weightlifting is his athletic passion. Last month in Nanaimo, Hungerschafer won the B.C. Junior Weightlifting Championship for the 85-kilogram weight class. He lifted a personal best 128-kgs in the clean and jerk plus 105-kgs in the snatch to finish in first place. His gold medal performance is impressive enough until you consider he also acted as coach of the Semiahmoo Secondary team and helped the Totems capture the team championship.

Semiahmoo coach Dieter Stamm, who was unable to attend the meet, said Hungerschafer’s coaching duties adversely affected his performance and his totals would have been even better if he were able to just focus on lifting.

Stamm extended this analysis to include all of the other activities in Hungerschafer’s life that distract him from his weightlifting potential.

“He’s technically one of the most proficient lifters I’ve coached in years, but lately he hasn’t trained hard enough,” Stamm said. “Instead of seeing him six times a week, I’m lucky if he comes in three times in a week. That’s not enough because with his experience, at this point he should be snatching around 135-kgs and lifting 175 in the clean and jerk. He’s nowhere near that now.

“He’s still young and he has huge potential. He’s 18 and with some hard work, I would have no qualms about taking him to the World Youth Championships. In two years he could go to the World Juniors and then who knows? There’s the Pan-Am Games, the Commonwealth Games, the World University Games and all kinds of neat stuff coming up.”

Next up for Hungerschafer are the B.C. High School Championships on May 3 where he aims to eclipse the existing provincial records — 104-kgs in the snatch and 130-kgs in the clean and jerk — for his weight class.

That competition is still weeks away and Hungerschafer is busy with other activities in addition to weightlifting. Earlier this year he travelled to New York to audition as an actor for the prestigious Julliard School.

“It was an experience,” is all he will say of the trip. “It was in New York and it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I really enjoyed the overall experience, but I think my nerves got to be a little bit too much that day.”

This month he was able to express himself in another manner when he participated in Semiahmoo’s art show for graduating I.B. students.

Much as he does with acting and weightlifting, Hungerschafer uses art to express himself in a non-verbal way.

“I like that you can say a lot with art,” he said. “I feel that art is a way to express many things — political things or just strong messages that inform people in different ways. Art is very political.”

Hungerschafer has spent the last three years building a portfolio of paintings. After graduation, he plans to take a year off from academic pursuits, working for a while before embarking on a six-month trip to Spain.

Much like Stamm in the weightlifting room, Semiahmoo art teacher Morgan Brailean said Hungerschafer’s potential as an artist is largely untapped.

“His strength is mostly his concepts,” she said. “His technique has grown a lot, going from really, really tight to now where his brush strokes are looser and show much more movement. He can look at other people’s work and his analysis is very deep and profound. Most of his work has a lot of political stuff in it that you wouldn’t know until he starts explaining it to you about the relationships and the downtrodden. His work is very meaningful to him.”

She added with a laugh, “I hope he stays in touch after he graduates because I would love to be able to say I know a famous person.”

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