"Let's take the photo first," Meg Thorne says, walking between the weights towards the back wall at Hybrid Fitness. Once she's done her workout for the day, she doesn't want to risk straining herself further by deviating from her training regimen.
She's choosing a weight and getting ready to show off her lifts when one of the other gym members calls out and encourages her to show off why she's called the 'Snatch Master'.
As it turns out, 'snatch' is a weightlifting term for a lift that brings the weight off the ground and above the head in one smooth motion.
"My nickname is 'Snatch Master' I think because I’m technically relatively good at the snatch exercise," Meg Thorne laughs when asked about the name. "It's kind of a play on words because I’m a master’s athlete."
Thorne has earned her name due to her prowess in Olympic weightlifting at the masters level, showing a level of skill that has allowed her to qualify for the 2016 Pan American Masters Weightlifting Championship in Puerto Rico.
Although Thorne only began weightlifting two years ago and attended her first competition in October, she already has two silver medals under her belt at both the provincial and national levels. She attributes the love of the sport to the community at Hybrid Fitness.
"This is an amazing environment to train in and it’s about what your body can do and how strong you are, both mental strength and physical strength," she says. "Participating in this community is like nothing I’ve ever experienced."
Thorne has been at Hybrid Fitness for almost three years now, since before Jordan Bartol, manager of member experience at Hybrid Fitness joined the staff team. When he remembers his first day, Thorne's warm welcome comes to mind.
"I remember my first day here she just took it upon herself to come on up to me, find out who I was, get to know me, learn a few things about me," Bartol says. "Meg was just super warm, super friendly and extremely welcoming."
Thorne's warm nature is likely an asset in Thorne's other life, as Thorne works as an academic advisor at Huron. She cites a love of watching them transition from high school through Huron and into their careers as a primary drive in her role. She's no stranger to Western, having previously worked as a FIMS academic counsellor after graduating with an MIT degree.
However, both Bartol and Stephanie Paplinskie, sessional kinesiology lecturer and coach at Hybrid Fitness note that Thorne is very humble and not one to talk about her accomplishments.
"With someone like Meg you would have never known that she a) is an Olympic weightlifter and b) that she was going to Pan Am," Paplinskie says. "It’s not something she professes or talks about really at work."
"The fact that she’s only been doing this for two years and she’s already going to the Pan Ams ... is quite outstanding."
Bartol echoes Paplinskie's pride and adds that her success despite her late start to the sport serves as an inspiration to other gym members.
"She’s such a big deal for the younger lifters here, but she’s also a big deal for the rest of our athletes in the gym, so people who maybe don’t weight-lift, but who just assume that they can’t get into it, because they’re too old or they’ve missed their shot or they’re over 30 now so there’s no hope. They can look at Meg who picked this up way way after you think that you can pick it up and master it."
While Thorne's humble nature may make her hesitant to call herself an inspiration, she finds the sport has its own rewards through tangible results.
"It’s really empowering to be strong and to continue to watch those weights go up as you put in so much effort and so much work ... it can be very empowering to focus on the numbers on the weights moving up as opposed to the numbers on the scale moving down."
Thorne will be competing in Puerto Rico for the Pan American masters weightlifting competition from July 17-19, representing Canada in the event.
Update: Thorne returned from Puerto Rico with the bronze medal after her competition.