Three years ago, Maya Laylor took up her father’s suggestion to try weightlifting at a competitive level.
Just 16 at the time and still in high school, the teenager figured she had nothing to lose.
She loves exercising and would often use Clance Laylor’s downtown gym to work out.
“I used to work out at home with kettlebells,” she said. “When my dad asked me one day if I wanted to be a high-performance weightlifter, I jumped at the opportunity.”
With two national junior and senior championship gold medals and provincial Under-17 and 20 records, Laylor has her sights on this summer’s Pan Am Games in the Golden Horseshoe and Greater Toronto Area regions.
A strength and conditioning coach, Laylor – who is his daughter’s coach – is not surprised by her meteoric rise in the sport.
“Maya has a very firm grip, so I know she’s physically strong,” he said. “As a strength coach, I can identify with that. She’s also very focused which is good for the sport since the window for error is extremely narrow. You have just three attempts at a lift which means that you have to be precise. Her focus and drive are unbelievable.”
To qualify for the Pan Am Games, the 19-year-old will have to finish in the top two in the 69-kg. category at the provincial senior tournament in Scarborough on March 28 (regional qualifiers will take place in British Columbia and Quebec on that day) and the national championships in Mississauga from May 16 to 18.
The qualifying mark in that division is 242.042.
The national federation will nominate to the Canadian Olympic Association up to seven men and six women to represent Canada at the quadrennial Games.
A total of 125 weightlifters – 56 women and 69 men – will compete at the Pan Am Games tournament from July 11-15 at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa.
With the Games on the horizon, Laylor spends almost 36 hours each week in the gym.
“I need to put in the work if I hope to become an elite athlete,” said the Northview Heights Secondary School graduate. “This is a rigorous sport and it was very tough for me at the start. I love the sport and never thought about quitting.”
Laylor said that competing at home in front of family and friends is a huge motivating factor.
“You don’t get this opportunity often to participate in a major sports event on home soil,” she said. “That’s something that keeps me going to make the Canadian team.”
As a full-time athlete, Laylor has turned to social media to raise funds to help her prepare for this year’s junior world championship in Poland in June, the Pan Am Games in July and next year’s Rio Olympics.
“She needs to be totally focussed while training,” said her Antigua & Barbuda-born mother, Nadine Jeffrey-Laylor. “The funds will be used for training camps, massages, therapy, supplements and frequent acupuncture treatment.”
Laylor, who has so far raised $6,000 in her bid to reach a $50,000 target, is looking forward to the world junior championship.
“Maya has some unfinished business,” said her Jamaican-born father, who is the strength and conditioning coach for Montreal Canadiens hockey defenceman P.K. Subban and Washington Capitals right-winger, Joel Ward. “She had a slight injury at the world championship in Russia last year and did not fare well. That experience has made her much stronger and she’s determined to do well this time around.”
Businesses or individuals interested in sponsoring the young athlete can go to www.makeachamp.com/mayalaylor.