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Weightlifter Wakeling to represent Indigenous Australia at Commonwealth Games

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Charntel Cleveland | July 20, 2022

Olympic weightlifter Brandon Wakeling— a proud Wonnarua man living on the Gold Coast—will this month compete in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Having previously appeared in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the 2019 Weightlifting World Championships, the 2019 Pacific Games and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Brandon is no stranger to global competition.

“I’m a competitor at heart and I’m in it to win it,” Brandon says.

“I’m looking forward to giving it my all and shooting for that podium finish.”

Indigenous representation important in sport

At the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Brandon was the only Indigenous man in the team, which he says was an important opportunity to represent alternate pathways for the Indigenous community.

“Representing success in a sport that is not known for a lot of Indigenous involvement will hopefully inspire someone else to pursue Olympic weightlifting, or perhaps even another sport that they can be the first to provide representation in,” he says.

“I would like to see opportunities and pathways made for Indigenous athletes in sports less widely recognised, such as weightlifting.

“I would love to see more representation in different sports, particularly Olympic sports.”

Aside from Olympic weightlifting, Brandon is an ambassador for Deadly Choices—an organisation that helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.

In Aboriginal slang, something ‘deadly’ is great, and ‘deadly’ health choices could be anything from quitting smoking, eating nutritious food or exercising daily.

With a focus on preventative health, Deadly Choices also encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to access their local health service for an annual check-up.

Brandon is incredibly honoured to be involved in such a worthy cause.

“Being an Indigenous Australian who also competes at the elite level in my chosen sport gives me some sort of a voice,” Brandon explains, “and to have privilege and be able to use that voice to contribute to providing health outcomes for the Indigenous community like Deadly Choices does, it is probably one of the most important and valuable things I can get out of being an athlete at the level I am currently at.”

Olympic weightlifter Brandon Wakeling is a proud ambassador of Deadly Choices
Brandon Wakeling is an ambassador of Deadly Choices

From football to barbells

Brandon first began weightlifting in 2015, when he was finishing his 15th year of playing rugby league.

Passionate about gym training to supplement his sport, Brandon gave Olympic weightlifting a go to break the monotony of regular resistance training.

“Turns out I had potential in the Olympic movements,” Brandon says.

“Six months into casual lifting, I made the swap from rugby league to Olympic weightlifting.”

For the past five years, Brandon has been training full time.

“I train anywhere from five to 10 times a week depending on where I am on my current lifting program,” he says.

After the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Brandon is hoping for a well-deserved break to let his body rest.

“Then it will be all eyes on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris,” he says.

Competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has been one of Brandon’s career highlights so far.

“Alongside playing rugby league, I also competed in track and field where I had the goal to either make the NRL or make the Olympic Games,” he says, “so that was a childhood dream realised that day.”

Brandon Wakeling in action

Brandon Wakeling with his daughter

Gold Coast ideal for athletes

Brandon has been living on the Gold Coast since he was a small child, moving from Campbelltown in Western Sydney to the Sunshine State to start preschool.

Sport has always featured heavily in his life, with the Gold Coast providing a fertile playing field for the budding athlete.

“I was very involved in sport from a young age, with many different sporting facilities and communities present throughout the Coast,” Brandon says.

“This made it very easy to make friends and enjoy playing sport on the weekends.”

Since then, the local sporting facilities have become world class, with a number of Gold Coast venues hosting events for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Venues such as the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre, Carrara Indoor Sports Stadium, Gold Coast Hockey Centre, Broadwater Parklands and CBus Super Stadium are just some of the locations that played host to thousands of athletes and officials from Commonwealth nations for the 2018 Games.

“I competed at the Carrara Sports and Recreation Centre, which was constructed for use at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” Brandon says.

“With capacity to hold 5,000 people, the space created for my event was something I’ll never forgot.

“It’s not every day you get a packed house of Aussies cheering you on at a local event.

“It was a very surreal experience that’s for sure.”

Apart from the awesome sporting facilities, the Gold Coast also provides a welcome reprieve from Brandon’s busy training schedule.

Currently living at the northern end of the Coast, Brandon relishes the city’s laidback vibe.

“For athletes who like to have downtime from the stress of being an athlete, the Gold Coast certainly provides an escape from the day-to-day stresses of a full-time athlete,” he says.

“Whether that is taking the family down for a walk along the beach with a coffee on a weekend morning or taking the dogs out for a run at the park, I enjoy taking in the scenery from the more relaxing areas of the Coast.”

When he’s not training, you can typically catch Brandon enjoying time with his family—his partner, seven-month-old daughter and two dogs.

“Spending time with my family is where I like to spend my energy,” he says.

“Whether that is going to a local cafe or going for a walk about the beach, that’s usually where you’ll find me out when I’m not training or competing.

“Outside of that, I will also be pursuing coaching and delivering value to the fitness industry where I can, as it’s an area I’m passionate about.”

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games begins Thursday 28 July and concludes Monday 8 August, with the weightlifting events taking place from Saturday 30 July to 3 August.

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