Stephanie Needham lifts more than double her own weight.
Perhaps more impressively, the 58-year-old powerlifter deadlifts more than 264 lbs., a number that is four times her age every time she straightens out her body and hoists the cast-iron weights into the air. Every time the Langford resident steps up to the bar, the athlete turns heads.
“Just being able to say that I can back squat 250 lbs. and I’m 58 years old, I think it keeps me young because everyone else is younger,” she said.
“It’s always fun when I can do stuff that people half my age can’t do.”
While her specialty is the deadlift, Needham said she is currently “grooving” on the bench press, of which she can push 132 lbs. or more into the air.
Having been involved in crossfit training for several years, she only took up powerlifting in the spring. These days she’s in competition training mode, settling into a training regimen of six days a week in preparation for the Commonwealth Powerlifting and Bench Press Championship.
From Dec. 1 to 5, she’ll be among 525 lifters from 15 Commonwealth countries competing at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
“I’m hoping to lift (more) than I lifted at the provincials and maybe hit some personal records. If things go well, I hope to break the Canadian record for total (weight lifted),” Needham said.
That national record, listed in metric weight, stands at 292 kilograms. “I have achieved it in training, but it didn’t (really) happen until it happens in competition.”
Needham competes in the Masters II division for athletes age 50 to 58, and in the under-84 kg weight class. Her personal best total lift is 638 lbs. (289 kg).
Her coach, Sean Janzer, says despite the average competition age being under 30, Needham is among the top four or five female lifters in any age or size category.
“She is the one per cent of one per cent in terms of strength. She can do most things that a man or woman, young or old, can’t do,” he said. “She is very strong … She hasn’t been tested at a national competition yet, but I would say she could be top three in Canada, no doubt.”
Janzer remembers a big deal for him was when he managed to lift 300 lbs. in the deadlift when he was 24. He said Needham is capable of lifting that, despite being close to aging into the Masters III category – he said she’s still getting stronger.
“She is on a steep increase in her strength … She has definitely more to go, but she will hit higher numbers than we have ever hit before,” he said. “You never know what your body’s predetermined (limit) is. You gain until you stop gaining, but you don’t see any signs that she has plateaued.”