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Joan Gardner is the Undisputed Powerlifter World Champion!
Joan Gardner is the World Powerlifting Champion!
Powerlifter from Charlotte to compete in Gay Gamesby Donna Iverson
Having trouble lifting that 20-pound bag of potting soil or compost? Meet Joan Gardner of Charlotte who can lift almost 14 of those bags at once. She proved it in March when she benchpressed 235 pounds in powerlifting competition, under the auspices of the American Powerlifting Association (APA). At 49 years old, she holds the World Champion title in powerlifting for her age group and category. The March 12th event was held at the YMCA in Burlington where Gardner broke three world records in the curl competition for her weight (165 pounds) and age division. According to Gardner, there were 48 lifters and about 100 spectators for the YMCA powerlifting meet, representing all the New England states. She also won “best female lifter.” In another APA sanctioned event in Sciuate, Massachusetts in April, Gardner took first place in both the bench press and deadlift events. Gardner plans to travel to Chicago in July for the Gay Games Sports and Cultural Festival. In addition to trying to break her own record, she hopes to raise awareness of the “great gays out there doing sports.” The international games to be held this year in Chicago have registered participants from 70 countries. The event was founded in 1982 by Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell to showcase LGBT sports as an “experiment in global unity, an experiment in education, and a vehicle for change.” Gardner became involved in powerlifting in the 1980s even though she admits to not being competitive by nature. Surprisingly, she doesn’t see powerlifting competition as competitive. “There are no one-on-one showdowns,” she explains. Weight lifting is more like running, where you do the best you can in the field of competitors, she says. But she finds powerlifting events important to “stay motivated.” To stay strong, Gardener lifts weights four times a week, doing benchpresses, squat lifts and a dead weight lift. She has started training for straight curls, or bicep curls, another area of APA competition. Her work as a physical therapist helps her avoid injuries, although she doesn’t know anyone who has lifted weights on a competitive level who hasn’t been hurt at least once. Everyone has a soft vulnerable physical spot, she says. Her advantage is in having an awareness of what to avoid, and especially knowing when to stop. If there is “ouch pain, don’t do it,” she advises. Asked about her diet, Gardner says, “I eat what I want,” although the more you weigh, the more you can lift. The other side of that coin is the feeling of flow she enters during a lift, a feeling of the sweet space, of completion, she says, trying to describe the emotional as well as physical sensations she feels successfully lifting two tons of weight over her head. She also enjoys the camaraderie of working out with the Burlington Weightlifting Club, of which she is one of the few female members. Looking back on her childhood, Gardner remembers experimenting with weight lifting in high school and always being a “tomboy who was stronger than most ofthe boys” in her neighborhood. Unlike less physically adept youngsters, Gardner was always picked in sports. “It was obvious I was strong,” she says, “always athletic.” She can lift more weight than a lot of men and her arm size surprised her when she saw it in a television news segment on the March competition. As the camera focused in on someone’s bicep, she only slowly comprehended that it was her arm on the screen. Born in Tennessee, Gardner moved to Vermont in 1979 and now lives in Charlotte, where she can be found mowing the lawn, working in the garden, painting, flooring, moving walls and redesigning the living quarters.