President’s Blog – And now the Nationals at Bodypower is over…..

Written by Emma James on . Posted in News, Uncategorized

By Emma Ylitalo-James, President – BPU and ABPU. 

Holy crap. 

Well, as Alan Wilson said, we managed the impossible. Well actually, I think you all managed the impossible. 

I was sat at home writing about critical thinking and the use of cognitive restructuring when an email with the final numbers for the ABPU and BPU Nationals 2018 at Bodypower came in. 


409? no, hang on, this cant be right………… I checked the cells on the Excel file 3 times as I thought maybe the number started at 120 or something………. but no. 

I telephoned the head honcho in a panic and the first words he said to me when he picked up were “Dont Painc”! The figures I had given him the whole time and had hoped for were around 250. 

How the hell, in the 3 weeks before the nationals were we going to be able to get 400 excited and way too bouncy, angry, stressed, worried and plain terrified lifters through in 3 days in one area and make it feel effortless for them with the least stress. 

Last year I had a grand plan – that the 2018 Nationals would be over 5 days, be absolutely lifter focused so every person felt like the entire competition was all about them and no one else. Then Bodypower asked if we would like to run the nationals there. Well the area that was there to start with 10 years ago was tiiiiiiiiny, it had become an “elite” competition and when I started the federation in 2013 and was then offered Bodypower in 2015, at 3 weeks notice because the previous person running it pulled out at the last minute I knew I wanted to make it all about EVERY lifter of every level, so that people at the Expo could relate and see they could do it too and also progress from beginner to potentially skull crushing weights! They gave us a bigger area and the story began there. Sport is not for the elite few – its for everyone at every stage of thier sporting career and this has to be respected, otherwise what the hell are we doing it for? 

So from the feedback we had from last year – lifters needed a loo beside the comp area, they needed to be able to get out and in, the warm up area needed to be huge, in fact we needed double the size at a minimum and also be right beside a food area. they said yes – so then I started talking tot he lifters and everyone said they wanted to do the nationals at Bodypower – this wasnt what I had in mind but hell – lets try it! I floated it past a couple of people within the federation who were absolutely against it – but at the end of the day if the lifters are saying they want it then thats it. 

The people that offered to help when the announcement went out was incredible. I will never be able to say thank you properly to the degree it should be to all the referees, the help with sending the invitations, setting up the flight lists, extra announcers, table crew, weigh in staff, runners and getters, people you trust who can talk to the organisers because you cant leave the platform, coffee grabbers, records writer downers, and, the most important part – the spotters and loaders and the platform managers. They were under immense pressure – I mean pivotal. The whole success of being able to get through 160 people in one day on 2 platforms on the Saturday rested with those guys – 1440 loads in one day. 3681 loads over 3 days…………………

If you think the platform manager does nothing you are wrong – the platform manager has to keep the time and pace going, be able to hand out anything up to maybe 300+kg, be able to work out the loads in their head even though the loads are on the screen (looking at the screen knocks seconds off the load time, multiply that by 1440 and you can see how late the day could have gone), get the loading right, check it, handle the spotters, and not many can do it, I certainly couldnt. The spotters have to be able to load and keep loading as well anticipate something going wrong but also not touch the bar – thats a fine line. 

We had the usual technical equipment issues, screens not working, no power, headsets needing changing and usually happened every morning so my heart was in my mouth every morning trying to get the AV guys to come and help us so we could start at 9am which was critical – and every time they appeared with a smile, fixed, added, changed and taped and all usually with a relaxed stroll and usually finishing with about 3 minutes to go!! They always knew it would be fine – for me, I get incredibly stressed if things are not right and ready an hour before hand. EVERYONE at Bodypower so so damn kind and supportive especially when they knew the challenge we were facing. I know there some jobsworth’s on the Saturday (NEC staff, not Bodypower) not letting people in when they should have but I had no idea and when someone finally came to get me, it was the financial controller of Bodypower who happened to be standing close to the entrance who sorted it out for me in a matter of a minute – not his job but he stopped everything he was doing and dealt with it straight away. 

If the paperwork and lists and hotels and organising people and travel and timings and tickets and parking passes and all those things are not not done well in advance then it all happens last minute and thats when mistakes are made. With this comp – one tiny error as the timing was to tight – could cost the lifters everything and make is a rubbish comp. I was up til 5am a couple of nights just working on it all. Kalle and I through the weekend were still up doing data input until midnight then up again before 6am and at the venue by 7am. It didnt seem to matter how tired we were in the morning and the terrible anxiety of whether it was all going to fall apart – once the lifting started, the tiredness went, the Adrenalin soared and watching each person, especially being able to be there announcing, push to the limit to try and get a place at the AWPC and WPC worlds was just incredible. As the president and the founder of the federation, I have the privilege to know a lot of the stories behind the scenes. The trials and tribulations for people and how hard each person has worked to try and get thier places on the world stage. It is a shame in the last year or so I havnt been able to have as much interaction as I would like due to my own personal work commitments and the fact the federation has grown so much BUT with every person that walked on that platform, me and probably every person that has ever competed, went with them through the lift. Whether it was a 48kg woman pulling 80kg or a 140kg guy squatting 400. The atmosphere at times was completely electric – you could feel the entire area crammed with people and 10 people deep around the barrier willing them on and I still remember a few people bursting into tears because they had finally hit a target they been working on for so so long. 

I really must thank our lifters for going with it – I hope my posts and info that I gave warned people and set the scene for what it may be like and bless you all you, you took it in your stride and made this the most inspirational event I have ever witnessed. I desperately hope you got what you wanted, felt valued and somehow felt it was worth it all. I really must tell you all that Bodypower form the outset, because they knew we had a hard job on our hands went the extra mile. You wont have seen this but behind the scenes they helped so much. I must thank Paul (in particular), Ash, Grace, Tom and Nick for all the support they gave me when they reliased the pressure we were under as well as well as being under severe pressure themselves trying to run an event that size. Also for telling the NEC parking people to “f+++ off” when they were going to try and ticket our van at the back of the hall because I ran out of time and couldnt move it to one of the perimeter car parks from unloading that morning. 

It is still emotional thinking back over the weekend – I just cant thank every competitor who came there enough. I am beyond words for the help that was given and how tired everyone was but still kept going. I am also extremely grateful for the friendships I have made and the words that made the difference when I really did want to throw everything out the window and walk away.

Alan Collins – my dear dear friend and the man, who if it wasnt for him, there would be no federation. In the midst of the shitstorm when I ended up with the license in early 2013, there was no one else on board. He listened, pushed me and got me to keep going and set this up through all the shit and barriers and down right rotten stuff people were doing because they were pissed off. He leant all his equipment for every comp until we made the money to buy all of our own (we still had to borrow Alans kit for this one, and Dayle Longfords! because of the sheer size of this) and he is someone I cannot and never will be able to thank properly – the best I could do was to name a competition after him (Dan Evans idea). Also a few people who were part of the original founders who still are there when I get down or get shit and publicly stand up for me when so many do not want to put their neck on the line – Dan Evans and Dan Yeates and of course Alan – thank you all so much. 

Finally, my husband. He came on board in 2015 and is now the administration officer but in all fairness is a lot more than that. He has to live and breathe this with me, even when he is trying to get on with his own stuff, he has to listen to the exasperation when monumental pillocks are either giving me crap or when things fall apart while I am trying to make everything look effortless and smooth! He has had to drag equipment all over the country, answer emails at midnight through the admin, do lists (he isnt big on that), get shouted at for not doing things quick enough (nothing is ever quick enough) but mainly for seeing and feeling what I feel about the people and the sport we have and the true companionship and camaraderie a majority of the lifters bring to every competition. He has worked so very hard with me on progressing this federation in the last 2 years and I think without him i just wouldnt have been able to manage as well as bringing his own Finnishness and also some truly terrible Finn music! 

Anyway – thats it! My deepest respect to everyone – my endless thanks for helping get us all through this. I will let you know if Bodypower want to host the nationals again, if they do then we will work on the basis of 3-4 platforms! I should know soon. 

Until the next time – in France, at the Euros – yes I am lifting and woe betide anyone that tries to talk to me when im lifting…………. (yes im a diva) SEE YOU THERE IN SUNNY FRANCE AND THEN AT THE WORLDS!



President Blog – April 2018 Nationals and Reffing

Written by Emma James on . Posted in News

Nationals, Platform Etiquette and Reffing 

We are a few weeks away from the 2018 BPU and ABPU British Championships being held at Bodypower. As we have a lot of new lifters (5 years competing and less) it was thought it would be useful to put in some refereeing info for you. 

First and foremost – the referees are there to help and WANT you to get the lift. All of our referees must be current competitors and in order to be able to sit a referee exam, they must have been competing a minimum of 2 years. For me, I have been an international referee since the late 1990’s and nationals since…… well…… a few years more than that! Darren has been an international referee for 4 years now, Patricia has sat her international exam in 2016 and passed her practical and still has the written to finalise. We have a wealth of experience there to help you from our national referees and dont be fooled if someone looks young – they may well have been competing a lot longer than you since they were 15 or 16. On a personal note, recently a new competitor said “what do you know, you just bench” – seeing as I RETIRED from full power in 2000 after 12 years of competing full power, just be careful what you say to people who are trying to help you when you are new to the game! 

If you get a red light, ASK! Dont strop off in a huff, ask! Genuinely, all our refs give a red with regret and will do anything to help you get that lift in. Also remember that angles taken by video, unless taken EXACTLY behind the referee at the same height etc, are misleading. None of our refs will comment on videos shown as you just cannot see properly and frankly if you start waving video at us, you will get a really sharp answer. If you try to show us a video from the front – then run! You cant judge depth from the front unless it is really obviously high. If you have got 2 no lifts, particularly on squat, and your friends are all saying “it was in” and waving video – ignore them, they are not helping you at this point. Speak to a referee and find out what is going wrong or get someone to call your depth from the side – or ideally both. 

Referees do make mistakes, things happen on platform and in the event that there is any doubt, it is obligatory to give a white. However, if you absolutely think it was in then you need to immediately speak to the head referee, not 5 minutes later with a video as at that point we cant do anything about it – there are so many lifters going through we really cant remember what happened on your 2nd bench. You may sometimes see a squat go through you thought was a little high – frankly unless youre standing exactly in the same position as the side ref, you really cannot see. However, as a referee, if you are unsure about a lift and its depth or position etc then you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the lifter and give white. Comments are also passed about depth when people are standing on one side where the lift looks high and they get a red but 2 whites from the front and other side, but the lifter is twisted, lop sided due to physical issues or one foot is slightly in front of the other which means they are in one side and not the other. So, before anyone starts moaning – think about those things. 

The aim of the referee is to provide impartial and fair judgement. I dont know of any of our refs that I would ever consider “not” impartial or empathetic. At international competitions where you dont know the referees, stand and watch how it is going. What do you need to do in order to get those white lights? What are they watching in particular, is there someone reffing depth from the front (I know we dont do it but some internationals do) and watch the referees style. These are all things as a lifter I had to do personally for years and still do. 

Lastly, if you get a lift failed, dont take it personally. You may be pissed off, but believe me when I say most refs hate the fact they have had to give a red light. When a lifter hates you for it and takes it personally, it really does hit hard even though you cant show it. I have shocking guilt red lighting people even though I stand by decision and am completely confident in the decision – we dont take it lightly and a red is the last resort. Do remember that if you absolutely disagree or something has happened which hasnt been noticed then you need to action it there and then and of course it will be fully taken into account and dealt with appropriately. If you feel a referee is consistently giving bad calls then mention it to the head referee. We dont close ranks (unless you’re being an aggressive or disrespectful tit) and all still compete. We are there for you, to help and give fair judgement so always make use of us. Ask ask ask ask and ask! 

Anyway – here we go, a few weeks away now and I wish everyone an outstanding British Championships with endless whites and the results you have been working so hard for. 

Emma Ylitalo-James 

The President’s Blog – July 2013

Written by Emma James on . Posted in News

July 2013 by Emma James – President of the BPU


It’s been an amazing journey in a very short space of time. Not only was the European Championships a huge success with the best Euro’s I have been to in years but also new European titles and records from Corinne Ingman, Emmy Louise, Darren Hammond and also myself with a new world record and a new beginning for Great Britain with the World Powerlifting Congress.