POWERHOUSE PERFORMANCE: Rockhampton powerlifter Odell Manuel on his way to setting a new Australia squat record of 470kg at Big Dogs 4 in Melbourne. Photo: NICK EDLIN
POWERHOUSE PERFORMANCE: Rockhampton powerlifter Odell Manuel on his way to setting a new Australia squat record of 470kg at Big Dogs 4 in Melbourne. Photo: NICK EDLIN

Champion powerlifter ends career on a high

POWERLIFTING: Odell Manuel has ended his celebrated career on a high, setting an Australian record on his way to winning a world-class competition.

The 41-year-old finished with a combined total of 1110kg and the winner’s trophy at Big Dogs 4 in Melbourne.

Manuel set a new Australian record of 470kg in the squat, bettering the existing record that he held by 10kg.

A hard-nosed competitor to the end, he had his sights on beating the world record total of 1140kg but it “just didn’t happen on the day”.

“I always said I would do Big Dogs before I left. I did it and won so it was good to end on a high,” he said.

“My best total was last year. I got 5kg lower this year but I was glad to have a bad day and still win the comp.”

Odell Manuel lifting 350kg in a training session in 2012.
Odell Manuel lifting 350kg in a training session in 2012.

Manuel said there were some nervous moments after he missed on his first attempt in the squat.

“I fell on my face at 440 in the opener,” he said.

“I got the 440 on the second and went for 470 on the last.

“That came up pretty good and I didn’t fall over so I got the record there.”

Manuel got 260kg in the bench press and 380kg in the deadlift to round out his total.

He made the decision to retire during the pre-season about six months ago.

“It was difficult, of course, but I’m 41 now. I’m getting on and a lot of the guys coming through are in their 20s,” he said.

“I’ve got a bad knee anyway, that’s why I finished footy, and it was rearing its ugly head again.

“I was finding that my recovery wasn’t as good and I was getting little niggling injuries, things that I wasn’t getting before.

“I’ve had a good run - I’ve got 10 years out of it.”

New Zealand-born Manuel found his way into powerlifting after his rugby league career was cut short by an osteoarthritis diagnosis in 2006.

He played 58 NRL games for the New Zealand Warriors and the Canberra Raiders between 1999 and 2002.

Odell Manuel playing for the Canberra Raiders in the NRL in 2001. Photo: PETCH COLLEEN
Odell Manuel playing for the Canberra Raiders in the NRL in 2001. Photo: PETCH COLLEEN

He was keen to revive his playing career and relocated to Rockhampton to play in the Q-Cup with the Central Comets, which was then a feeder club for the North Queensland Cowboys.

Manuel played just six games before he received the heartbreaking diagnosis.

Little did he know that would prove a turning point and ultimately head him in a new sporting direction.

He hit the gym and started doing weights, something his father had introduced him to at a young age.

“That’s when the local powerlifters got me into it and the rest is history,” he said.

“I come from a top-level team sport but that actually helped me big time mentally in powerlifting.

“Obviously it’s an individual sport but many things are still the same; you’ve still got to have a plan and be professional in everything you do and that’s just how I approached it.”

Manuel is a six-time Australian powerlifting champion and won countless competitions in his career.

While the achievements are many, he rates his comeback from injury in 2018 among the greatest.

“I injured my quad in 2016; I ripped the tendon straight off the bone,” he said.

Odell Manuel after his win at Big Dogs in 2015.
Odell Manuel after his win at Big Dogs in 2015.

“Normally when you do that it’s very hard to come back. The doctor told me I probably wouldn’t be able to squat again, well not heavy anyway.

“I had a lot of records and I was always number one in Australia and I had that taken away when I couldn’t compete.

“I came back from that injury in 2018 and not only did I come back, I set three national records and got the number one spot in Australia back.

“I showed that I could still squat pretty good and I was grateful for that. I was just so happy I could come back and do what I love.”

Manuel said he had received some incredible support from his family and his team.

He knows things will not be the same but he is excited for the next chapter.

“It’s going to be different waking up now and thinking I don’t have to train today,” he said.

“Now that I’ve finished I can spend more time with my kids and support them on their sporting journey.

“I think my wife will be happy that I’m home a lot more now.

“A lot of the powerlifting promoters want me to come back next year but I can’t see that happening.

“I’ve got no regrets. You’ve got to make your decision and go with it and not look back.”