Calgary powerlifter uses her sport to create opportunities for athletes in Zimbabwe
Nicola Paviglianiti is a quick study.
She was recruited into powerlifting just two years ago and already owns two national titles and a world championship gold medal.
“It’s definitely been super special and provided me with a lot.”
It’s more than she ever could have imagined.
Paviglianiti is now busy preparing for her next international competition, the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships, taking place next month in South Africa. But this meet represents a lot more than just medals. She’s bringing three special guests to compete alongside her.
“I still feel like a very new athlete myself and all of a sudden I’m sponsoring three lifters, like coaching them and everything,” she said. “But I’m up for the challenge and I’m excited.”
Seremani “Ndoo” Bakari, Audrey Svongwa and Knowledge “Knox” Fata are three athletes Paviglianiti met in Harare, Zimbabwe, where Paviglianiti spent a month this summer studying for her master’s thesis in international humanitarian aid.
“They have basically nothing,” the 23-year-old said. “These lifters live in a very marginalized community, they have no lights in their gym; like lots of their equipment is homemade but they have such a sense of community.
“They show up every day, they lift in the dark if they have to, but it’s just one thing that’s keeping them together.”
This will be their first-ever powerlifting competition and first time travelling internationally. Paviglianiti tries to connect with them daily to discuss training and update travel plans.
“Lifting is obviously my passion and to be able to share it with other people puts a smile on my face,” she said. “It’s so cool to be able to WhatsApp them and see some of their lifting videos and watch them improve every day. I see myself in many of them.”
But this is experience is just the beginning. After the competition, Paviglianiti is returning to Zimbabwe on a one-way flight, with the goal of leaving a lasting impact on their community through powerlifting.
For just $2,000 they are planning to open a new gym in Zimbabwe. The equipment will all be made locally, employing nine people in the process.
“Our goal is to get six more gyms and then even expand into other countries,” Paviglianiti said. “We currently have connections in Kenya and Rwanda, which would be very cool to start expanding to other countries.”
She also plans to open a female-only gym, so the sport is accessible to all women.
“I truly believe, especially after my research, that there is so much potential in powerlifting to change lives and change communities and connect people around the world, there really isn’t a limit.”
Currently, Paviglianiti is paying for nearly the entire trip out of her own pocket, roughly $1,000 per each of the athletes.
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