Two men from Guam won gold medals in a Las Vegas meet. The World Raw Powerlifting Federation held a competition in Las Vegas two weeks ago. Guam-grown Donavan Taisacan, 23, and Christopher Hagge, 35, represented the island and brought home winning titles. Certified powerlifting coach Grace Tacuyan-Witt was by their side from Guam to Las Vegas and was able to witness the personal accomplishments and incredible feat pushing Guam forward.
Ms. Tacuyan-Witt told Kandit, “As their coach, being able to witness all their hard work presented on the platform…is a blessing. I always say, ‘I’m the architect but they’re the builders,’ and at this meet they built something that mattered.” Guam does not get a lot of recognition in the powerlifting scene and as a first attempt at representing the island, it is an incredible achievement to return with two gold medalists.
Mr. Taisacan’s journey to first place in the junior’s division under 140kg weight class was inspired by his friend Anthony Salas aka Big Tone. Mr. Taisacan said, “I wanted to challenge myself and get the experience out from this. And representing Guam was such an honor, travelling thousands of miles to rep my home, my rock.” Taisacan’s best lifts were 424.4-pound squats, 286-pound bench presses, and 534-pound deadlifts.
Kandit asked Mr. Hagge about his journey up until he won in Las Vegas, what inspired him and what pushed him forward. Hagge said, “The one person who really got me into powerlifting was Grace [Tacuyan-Witt]. So, I was really always into powerlifting, but I was never focused on it as much as I am now. The only reason why I got into competing was because my wife passed away last year…she was the one that was involved in Piti with the three girls that hit the power pole. What I wanted to do was dedicate this powerlifting meet to her and to my kids.
“I got really focused into it and just wanted to make it all about her, compete for her, get stronger for her. I wanted to leave all my anger, all my depression, all my loneliness, everything on that platform. During that day of the competition, on that platform, every lift I did I gave it everything I got, 110 percent of my anger, my depression, what I’m going through, what everybody’s going through. I took everybody’s problems; I took it to my shoulders and competed and lifted those weights. So that’s what got me into competing again. I’m not too sure when I’m going to compete again. Right now, I’m just trying to focus on myself and my kids. Maybe next year, if the time is right, I’ll start competing again. But the main reason why I competed was for her and that’s it.” Hagge finished in second place for the 165-pound open division, first place in the sub-master division, first place in the bench only open division class, and first place in the bench only sub-master division class. His best lifts were 429.9-pound squats, 325.2-pound bench presses, and 463-pound deadlifts.
The coach said of her students and the competition experience, “I helped them understand that competing isn’t just about lifting. There’s a mental aspect to it…and as an off-island competitor, it’s different because you’re dealing with a different environment/jet lag/culture shock in addition with acclimating to the weather. They gave a lot of heart and for each of them, the experience was something personal. I think they did amazing, and I am so proud of them.”
Ms. Tacuyan-Witt went on to say, “The hard part about competing off-island as an individual and representing Guam is that we often do this using our own money and sacrificing our own personal time. Although both men received funds through fundraising and private donors, a majority of the money spent came out of their own pockets. What most people don’t realize is that it takes money to train for this, let alone set aside even more money to compete and represent Guam.
“Representing Guam is such an honor because we don’t just go in doing this for ourselves, but also with the mindset that we are putting Guam on the map and showing that we can develop work-class athletes. Prior to 2016, because Guam wasn’t affiliated with any powerlifting federation, nobody could hold records for Guam. As of right now, there are over 20 lifters that have represented Guam since then and are world-ranked.
“As this sport grows, we have many opportunities to support and showcase individual athletes. Not just in this sport but other individualized sports. Our athletes proudly represent Guam, and this will only continue to grow.”
To get the full effect of her coaching experience, Grace Tacuyan-Witt can be found at Crossfit Hita Gym in Dededo.