Christian Largo Took Away Key Lessons From The World Championships
by Bob Reinert
Christian Largo knew that the World Para Powerlifting Championships would be competitive. The level proved to be even higher than he expected.
“Everyone brought their ‘A’ game,” Largo said of the field that competed last month in Dubai, UAE. “They were all pushing consistently clean lifts. It was probably the most competitive competition I’ve ever participated in. I was really, really proud to be in that mix.”
Though he set a personal record by bench-pressing 150 kg., Largo placed 23rd for best lift in the men’s 72 kg. weight class. His 295 kg. total in two successful lifts was good for 18th place.
Largo failed to lift 154 kg. in his third and final attempt. Had he succeeded, he would have vaulted into seventh place with a 449 kg. combined total.
“It didn’t make sense in hindsight,” said Largo, adding that he should have inched up to 151 kg. on that last try. “Are you trying to get a good best lift, or are you trying to get a good combined total?
“There’s so much going on that you barely have time to strategize in the moment. And that’s when you have to do a lot of your thinking about what your next lifts are going to be.”
Largo compared the strategizing to “a fun game of chicken.”
“How far can you push yourself and not bust?” he said. “That’s always one of my favorite parts of the sport is people pushing themselves to their limits and seeing who survives and who doesn’t.”
This was the third world championships experience for the 24-year-old Largo, who is from Glen Allen, Virginia. In his worlds debut at Mexico City in 2017, he took home a silver medal in the junior 65 kg. class. He made his senior world championships debut in 2019 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, and placed 12th in total lift.
Largo, who was born with spina bifida, had begun weightlifting to get stronger for wheelchair basketball while still at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia.
“It was a junior league, so I would stop playing basketball when I went to college,” said Largo, who graduated from Randolph-Macon College in his home state in 2021. “But I really liked lifting weights. I liked getting stronger, so I kept doing weightlifting.”
He eventually qualified for the U.S. Para national team.
Largo, who has lifted as much at 157 kg. in training, said he learned an important lesson recently in Dubai.
“I really need to focus on energy consumption,” he said. “In the gym, I’ve gotten all three of those lifts easily. It was a question of how can I conserve my energy to where I’ll have enough energy to get (the weight) up at the end?
“That is what I need to focus on for next time because every little thing is going to contribute to energy loss when the time comes when you need that energy the most.”
Moving up in weight class from 65 kg. to 72 kg. has already helped some. Largo said he didn’t have to worry about his diet or cutting weight before competitions, which helped keep his energy levels up.
To help with his energy during competitions, Largo always makes sure to pack some snacks to have before he attempts his first lift.
“The thing that I always pack right before my competitions are pretzels and peanut butter,” he said. “Just because it’s good carbs and good protein. It seems to work. I also bring beef jerky with me. Bananas are also really good right before competition.”
Unlike many powerlifters, Largo’s pre-competition routine doesn’t have him wearing ear buds.
“I actually don’t listen to music,” he said. “Before I lift, I usually am silent or I’m talking to somebody or what have you. Maybe music would be helpful. I’ve just never used it.”
Though Para powerlifting is all about the bench press, Largo exercises his upper back, triceps and chest in training. He experienced shoulder pain two summers ago, which provided a useful wake-up call.
“Basically, I learned that you’ve got to strengthen those shoulder muscles if you want to keep benching,” he said. “It’s really easy to forget about them. Especially when you’re pushing your (wheelchair) all day, they could get worn out and they could get injured.”
Largo’s good health becomes increasingly important now that Paralympic Games Paris 2024 are less than a year away.
“I would love to go to Paris,” Largo said. “You need to be top eight in the world in your weight class, last time I checked, in order to go, and I am currently not close to that. So, I would need to do some serious work in the next couple competitions, but we’ll see.”
In fact, Largo ranks 29th in total lift and 31st in best lift in the world in his weight class, though he believes the rankings might not capture his true standing in international competitions.
The competition at the Paralympics would be a different story if he qualifies, Largo said, though he also doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
“As far as the Paralympics goes, I would just be lucky just to attend,” he said. “I’m just taking one step at a time.”
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to usparapowerlifting.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.