Published 8 July 2020
We all know her as one of the hardest working and most badass lifter in the gym. This week, we get close and personal with Melissa who has been with us for TWO YEARS this month!
Photo Credit: Melissa's first MPA meet in September 2019

I broke and dislocated my ankle back in March 2018 during the Viper Challenge. I lost my grip while brachiating the monkey bars. I fell on my ankle and heard a loud cracking sound as if I’ve snapped a branch. My friends had to carry me to the medical site as it was too painful for me to stand or walk. I was terrified.

When the surgeon examined my injury, he told me that I might not be able to squat anymore. Not only that, but he also advised me to stay away from any ‘extreme sports’ to prevent more injuries. “Just stick with golf,” he said. I felt helpless. Fitness is my passion and I could not imagine my life without it.

It was the darkest moment of my life. I was unmotivated until my friend, Dorothy sent me an article about a man who broke both his legs and came back stronger in powerlifting. So I thought if he can do it, why can’t I? I told myself that I want to prove my doctor wrong, that quitting after an injury is not going to help the recovery.

As a result, I had to stay in KL to go for rehab sessions to speed up my recovery. One day I got a DM asking if I would be interested to join the team. That’s also how I met Carlos and the #UnionFam. I will never forget the day I came to the gym limping with a still-recovering ankle. Since then, Carlos, the team and the #UnionFam have always been there to motivate me whenever I was struggling with my ankle recovery or my training.

How would you describe your powerlifting journey?

Bumpy, as you can see. Before the injury, I was already into lifting, but more of like an improper combination of cardio and hypertrophy with ZERO knowledge about the right technique and how our body works, yet always wanting to lift heavy. At that time, I wasn’t too concerned about having a proper fitness programme because back in my hometown, no one does powerlifting and girls don’t even lift.

Union Strength is where I started my journey into powerlifting. I was lucky to meet my coach Anip, who educated me with so much knowledge about my recovery. He’s also the one who encouraged me to compete in my first powerlifting meet and started training me to be physically and mentally stronger.

"Strength doesn't come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn't!"

-Coach Anip-

But, the process wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be. Even though my ankle’s mobility was much better than post-surgery, I still struggled to hit a certain depth for my squat. On top of that, I also injured my hips due to overtraining with improper technique. Then, I met Youska from Myoreform, who understands and fixed my situation. He gave me a lot of valuable advice and recovery ‘homework’ that helped with a better range of motion for my ankle.

My first ever powerlifting meet (MPA RAW) was in September last year. That was the first time where I had to squat, bench or deadlift in front of people. I was very nervous. I didn’t want to disappoint my coach, Dorothy and friends who supported me along the way. But more importantly, I wanted to see how strong I have become since the injury. Guess what? Got myself a gold in U44kg women’s category for MPA RAW-full meet with a TOTAL of 205KG!! I was so happy! The results exceeded my expectation, but I wasn’t satisfied because I failed my third attempt on deadlift.

Photo Credit: Melissa's accomplishment on MPA RAW 2019 - Full Meet

So, I convinced my coach to get me prepared for the upcoming APA meet in November, which was a month later. All my friends thought I was insane. But I knew I would not be able to do this for a while when I went for my implant removal surgery. For that, I wanted to see how far I can go with an iron-stiff ankle.

Instead of three months, I only have a month to train this time. A week before the meet, I was repping out for my PRs (personal records). I tried so hard, but I still failed to lift the weights from the last meet. I was worried.

On the day itself, I told myself that I wasn’t going to leave any regrets before going for implant removal surgery. That I will grind through every single lift until I get the results knowing whatever number it may be, I did my very best. Surprisingly, the results were better than everyone expected, including me.

I got a gold medal in the U44kg women’s category with a TOTAL of 220kg this time! 15kg more than my first powerlifting meet four weeks ago! Not only that, but I also managed to break my PRs for all the lifts (squat, bench and deadlift).

Video Credit: Melissa's third attempt on deadlift at APA 2019

What would you say to someone who is thinking of starting their own journey?

Set a realistic goal, be it short term or long term, all you have to do is be consistent and be patient. If you need help, consult, listen and learn from the experts and professionals.

One day, you’ll look back on the day you started and realise how strong you’ve gotten. Motivation gets you started, but the habit is what keeps you going. It's not going to be easy but once you see the results, it’ll be an unstoppable addiction!

And NEVER GIVE UP! You don’t know what you’re capable of until you take the first move. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it at the end of the day!

Melissa Loh