The funding means sport in Nova Scotia will be more inclusive, more competitive and more successful. It will also allow more of our athletes and coaches to stay and train in Nova Scotia, and in the end, give back to their own communities.

Jamie Ferguson, CEO
Sport Nova Scotia

Mike and Brennan MacDonald

Good things come in threes

Mike MacDonald is a born athlete. He spent his early adolescence charging down rugby fields, gliding towards goalie nets, and gearing up in sweaty locker rooms. Athleticism came naturally for Mike, so, while some 15-year-old boys may have been intimidated by the thought of lifting more than two times their body weight over their head, Mike saw a challenge worth conquering.

“My sport is powerlifting,” explains Mike. “It is made up of three disciplines: the squat, the bench press and the deadlift. The squat is the lift that tests the strength of your legs. The bench press is to test the strength of your arms and chest. Lastly, the deadlift is the lift that tests the strength of your back and overall body strength.”

The raw physicality of powerlifting was perfectly suited to Mike’s extreme sporting-appetite. Powerlifting became Mike’s new obsession, but breaking into this sport was a bit more difficult than he’d anticipated.

As any athlete can testify, participating in sport is expensive. And although money issues weren’t new for Mike and his family, in the past he’d been involved in team sports, so fundraising efforts were largely shared amongst the players, parents and coaches. Powerlifting is expensive, and the pressure to secure funding rested solely on Mike’s shoulders. Luckily Mike is accustomed to carrying heavy loads.

“I was working three part-time jobs, studying as a full-time university student and still having to fit my long hours of training in,” he explains.

Most mornings, Mike would start his day before sunrise and head off to one of his part-time jobs. He’d work until noon, before rushing downtown just in time for his one o’clock class. He’d have classes until 8 p.m., and his short breaks were spent doing homework, studying and grabbing a quick bite. After school Mike would head straight for the gym to train for three or four hours. On top of all this, he’d often have to work in the evening until 2 a.m. Clearly sleep was a prized commodity.

“Life was stressful,” says Mike. “Trying to keep my academic grades high, while training to be a world champion, working three jobs and maintaining a well-rounded social life wasn’t always easy.”

With assistance from the Support4Sport program, Mike has finally returned to living a somewhat normal existence – bearing in mind that you don’t become a world powerlifting champion by living normally.

“Having funding support has been a key to my success with the sport,” Mike says. “Being a full-time university student at Cape Breton University, my financial situation is hectic enough. When I can concentrate on my training and focus less on the financial burden of my travel and training expenses, my competition results are always better. It also gives me the chance to compete at competitions that I wouldn’t be able to attend without the assistance from Support4Sport.”

Once Mike had found a solution to his money matters, there was still one pesky issue he needed to resolve.

“When I first started lifting I was pretty well solo most of the time. I would have to make arrangements for people to come watch me at the gym to help me out and spot me from dropping the weight on myself. This was very difficult especially when I couldn’t find anyone,” says Mike. “The only thing that kept me going was my love for the sport.”

Fortunately for Mike, his love of sport was hereditary. For several years Mike’s younger brother Brennan had been watching him from the sidelines, but Brennan had become eager to join in on the fun.

“Once my younger brother was old enough to join me in my journey, it was the biggest help you could ever ask for,” says Mike.

At first, Brennan just accompanied his older brother to the gym to assist him, but with Mike’s guidance, eventually Brennan was the one on the bench breaking records and shocking spectators.

“No one has made a bigger impact on my success than my brother Mike,” says Brennan. “He’s been there from the beginning and we train together pretty well every day.”

From training with his brother at the gym to following his lead when it comes to academic excellence, Brennan MacDonald has definitely benefitted from his brother’s guidance. At this point, both MacDonald brothers have received funding from the Support4Sport program to assist with their training.

“It has definitely given me more breathing room with purchases of essential equipment and travel expenses,” says Brennan. “Being a recent high school graduate, it is not easy to pay for these costs on my own, I really couldn’t be more grateful for the funding I received.”

Together, the MacDonald brothers began dominating powerlifting competitions throughout Atlantic Canada. There were many challengers along the way, but what their conquered opponents didn’t realize was that the brothers had a secret weapon: sibling rivalry.

“We may not get along all time but in the gym we always do,” Brennan explains. “Being brothers really lets us push each other harder than any other training partner could have. I could never live down skipping a training session and neither could he.”

The brothers thrive on pushing each other to the limit, and then celebrating each other’s victories. And there’s been a lot to celebrate in recent years. Mike currently holds the title of the Strongest Junior Powerlifter in Canadian history and Brennan is the Best Sub-Junior Powerlifter in Canada.

Although the MacDonald duo plans to dominate the world of powerlifting for years to come, they might soon come up against some stiff competition. Their youngest brother Colin is also now training with them, and Colin plans to show his brothers that sometimes being the youngest child has its advantages.


New Waterford, NS
46° 15' 12.5028" N, 60° 5' 18.0528" W


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