Meet Our Team
A mission trip to Zimbabwe served as the catalyst for John Downing's vision, which has become known as LIFT4LIFE. For several years, he has been an active competitor of the sport of powerlifting and a coach both at the high school and collegiate level. Throughout his coaching career at The Ohio State University and Northeastern High School, he has coached more 400 students. Although he has always had a passion for coaching and excelling in the sport, his true passion lies in growing powerlifting globally. His passion for spreading the sport continues to grow as he begins to work with Zimbabwe, with the intent to reach countries that do not already have the sport. John is also a full time high school social studies teacher in Columbus, Ohio.
Nicola Paviglianiti is a squatting scholar pursuing a joint Masters degree in International Humanitarian Action. She has extensive experience working with marginalized communities across the globe, and she is currently working with Lift4Life for her thesis research exploring how powerlifting can be utilized within the humanitarian community. In conjunction with her research Nicola is passionate towards putting her academics into action, and through her own powerlifting training and competitions is constantly striving to inspire others, build community, and connect individuals around the world. As a member of Team Canada for powerlifting and female lifter herself, Nicola has a special place in her heart for women empowerment and is specifically interested in growing a strong community of lady lifters within Lift4Life.
Mitchell Buyson, CPA, began his strength journey in 2014 when he prepared for an animal welfare volunteer project in Belize. The strength training leading up to that project had taught him that you can dissipate self-limiting beliefs through discipline, intelligent training, and “getting comfortable being uncomfortable”. A Canadian-born accountant, Mitchell moved to the United States in 2017 to seek new challenges and opportunities. He is a USA Powerlifting (USAPL) Raw National level powerlifter and a USAPL Certified Club Coach.
Mitchell graduated from the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, earning his Bachelor of Commerce (Co-op) with a Minor in Psychology. He had earned his Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation while articling at Deloitte LLP. He works full-time at The Siegfried Group LLP, whom provides Leadership Advisory and Talent Delivery services to Fortune 1000 companies. He combines his passion for powerlifting, accounting, finance, and philanthropy to empower others and build unity in communities on a global scale.
Cassie Ammen is a Montanan and strength enthusiast. Sports have had an important impact on her life and personal growth through developing a sense of discipline and goal setting, working through failure, and cultivating a sense of community with shared passion and interest. Cassie was introduced to powerlifting in 2016 and was instantly hooked and felt it was a life changing experience. She hopes to use her background in Conflict Analysis and Resolution to engage the community both locally and abroad to have access to such a fun and empowering sport especially for women and girls.
Shamal Asnani, CPA is an accountant, coach, and powerlifter from the Bay Area. His strength journey began in 2012 where he started training for powerlifting while working full time as a college student.
Shamal graduated in business administration with an option in accounting, finance, and corporate management from Cal State East Bay in Hayward, California. He found a strong interest in growing his career in accounting so he went for the challenge and earned his CPA license. Currently, Shamal runs his own accounting firm with his partner Rachel, while also running a coaching business catered towards strength training and powerlifting. He wants to give back to the fitness community by combining his passion of accounting and powerlifting.
Rachel Bitz is an accountant, coach, 56kg powerlifter, and NASM Certified Personal Trainer from the Bay Area. She started her strength journey when she began her first year of college. From the guidance of her partner Shamal, she became focused on powerlifting. She has competed in national and world level meets in the USPA/IPL Federation.
When Rachel isn’t in the gym killing her workouts, she is creating business growth strategies for her accounting clients, and runs her coaching business catered towards powerlifting , body recomposition, and strength.
Dre Newkirk works in the fitness industry as a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor. She has certifications as a body-positive weight management specialist, TRX trainer & Pound instructor. When she’s not helping others achieve their health and fitness goals, you can find her in the gym powerlifting to training for meets. She’s a USAPL Masters Level powerlifter and recently received my powerlifting coaching certification from the USAPL. There are other areas of fitness in her practice which includes yoga, flexibility training, aerial arts, and pole fitness. She lives in Massachusetts with my partner Erica, our son Ivan and our German Shepherd Max.
Audrey Svongwa is a local of Zimbabwe, and lives in the community of Glen Norah. This young woman began her powerlifting journey of July of 2017, and hasn’t looked back since being introduced to the sport. Audrey had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Commonwealth Championships in South Africa where she and since this time has made incredible progress in her own lifting and growth as a coach and mentor within powerlifting in Zimbabwe. Audrey is responsible for growing the sport on the ground, and is the community workshop lead. She is particularly passionate about making the sport accessible to youth and women within Zimbabwe, and was recently involved in the grand opening of the first ever female only Lift4Life gym in Zimbabwe. She holds weekly classes within her home community of Glen Norah, and additionally leads powerlifting classes in neighbouring communities on a regular basis.
Margaret Armstrong first became interested in exercise while working at the student recreation center at the University of Alabama. After graduating with a degree in dance, she was accepted into the Exercise Science masters degree program at the University of South Alabama. Margaret worked as a personal trainer for 5 years before choosing to pursue a degree in nursing. Margaret graduated from the Accelerated Masters in Nursing Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and worked as an RN in a medical detoxification unit until her first child was born. In 2017, after being home with her two boys for 5 years, Margaret returned to coaching. She believes that strength training is for everyone and has the power to simultaneously build both physical and mental strength. Margaret is excited to be part of the Lift4Life team and is thrilled to play a part in the introduction and expansion of strength training to new communities and populations both locally and abroad.