Stuart Whitaker is a sports reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times and a general reporter for the Bay News.

Accountant's uplifting world title

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Tauranga accountant Joanne Newman is a world champion power lifter. PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
Tauranga accountant Joanne Newman is a world champion power lifter. PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

Power lifting

Three years ago, Tauranga accountant Joanne Newman knew nothing about power lifting.

Today she is a world champion and holds three of the sport's world records after the world championships in Serbia.

"I think that's pretty amazing for someone who turned 56 the day before," she said.

Newman only began competing this year, and qualified for the world championships by winning the national title for her age group in Auckland after taking the Auckland and Waikato regional titles in April and May.

''I won the Waikato regionals and increased my lift by 10kg which is significant in power lifting - some people take a year to increase by five.''

In November last year she set a new Masters 50+ women under-80kg front squat harness world record.

"I started power lifting two years and 11 months ago and the reason I started was because I was terribly overweight.

I've lost 35kg.

''I walked into the gym and it was keep-fit classes with other overweight people and I thought 'that's just not me'. Then I looked over and saw the guys lifting weights and I thought 'that's me'.''

She said that was a life-changing moment.

''It's been the best, most amazing experience I've ever had. It's taken a huge amount of discipline and it's a very restricted diet that I've been on consistently.''

She had a trainer and a nutritionist - husband and wife Andrew and Kirsty Wain of Lift Personal Training and Nutrition. Andrew went to Serbia with her.

For all the life-affirming benefits and amazing experiences, it hadn't all been plain sailing.

''I had two herniated discs in the first year of lifting and was told i could never lift again. Then in October 2014 I snapped my rotator cuff and was told I could never bench again. But just through sheer grit and determination ... well just don't tell me 'no'.''

Newman had to use a harness for a time while lifting, and still had daily pain from the rotator cuff injury.

''I had to have quite significant surgery on it, it had to be reconstructed and I still have pain, but you just work through it.''

Newman went to Serbia with the goal of setting personal bests - something she achieved with 130kg in the deadlift.

''I wasn't terribly optimistic, so I was pretty stoked to get that - I'd been trying to get that since July and I haven't been able to achieve it in the gym.''

Up to that point, her personal best was 127.5kg. She beat that on her fourth lift.

''You wouldn't think that 2.5kilos added to a bar would make much difference, but 2.5kilos feels like another 20 kilos has been added.''

The adrenalin from competing was a major factor in her lifting the greater weight.

Newman said the black and white nature of the sport was something that appealed to her.

''You can either lift it or you can't. The deadlift is a compound movement and it uses every single muscle in your body so it's extremely challenging on your body.

''But there's no in-between, you don't get half a lift, and because of that you are so motivated and you think 'can I go heavier?', so you go heavier and you keep pushing yourself and that's what I find so incredibly challenging. I've found a sport I am passionate about and that I can do and that I've managed to get world records and a world championship in.''

Newman is now looking towards next year's world championships in the Czech Republic, and will continue to concentrate on increasing her personal bests in the bench, squat and deadlift.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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