Helen Kostadinos is an Iron Woman
Delima Shanti talks to the powerlifting yiayia from Bendigo, Victoria
Most people would cringe at the thought of lifting more than two times their body weight, but a 68-year-old Bendigo woman has been doing it for years.
Helen Kostadinos, a baby supply shop owner, recently came back from world powerlifting championship meet in France, where she not only won her events in bench press, squats and deadlifts, but also wiped clean previous world records.
The Bendigo woman was humble about her winnings, saying powerlifting was "just a hobby".
"It's just something I enjoy doing, I don't get anything out of it, I don't have any sponsors," she said.
Going into her first competition in 1997, Konstadinos had always been active even before she tried her hand with weights. Whether it is doing aerobic classes with her instructor daughter or lifting the boxes in her baby supply store, the grandmother of one is no doubt one fit lady.
"My son, who is a bodybuilder, started teaching me how to lift things properly and to strengthen my back, because I was starting to get back problems from lifting boxes around the shop," she said.
Finding that she has a knack for lifting barbells, the then 53-year-old Konstadinos started training more often at the gym; before she went on to compete for the first time in 1997. Since then, she has regularly competed in national and world championships around the world.
"I compete twice a year and it's always a lot of fun. The world championships are usually in the winter around November, but this year I checked the dates and it was in June! So I thought it would make a nice summer holiday in France," she said.
But instead of lying on the beach and getting a tan, Konstadinos spent three days on her time in sunny France breaking three world records in the women's 63kg class for 64 to 69-year-olds. On the opening day, she squatted 12 kg more than the previous record holder, squatting 92.5kg. This was followed by another win the next day, as she powered through a 60kg bench press, 10kg more than the previous record. The whopper was on the final day, when the grandmother broke the previous record by a whopping 32.5kg, with a 132.5 deadlift that could easily floor most people, no matter the age.
"I was surprised when I went to France and found out I'm getting stronger and stronger. [The deadlift competition] was on the third day, and I thought I would be feeling tired and weaker by then," Konstadinos said.
For a hobby, Konstadinos is certainly dedicated to her sport and has become a bit of a local celebrity. In 2006, she won 12 gold medals when she represented Australia at the 2006 world championships in her hometown Bendigo. On top of that, she has been nominated as Bendigo's "Sports Star of the Month" numerous times over the years.
When asked if she will ever put down the barbells, the iron woman said she will continue powerlifting as long as she still has her strength. At the moment she is looking forward to compete in the 70kg class, where there are no powerlifting records so far.
"I just broke my own record recently, I lifted 150kg. I've still got records that haven't been broken, but you never know, I was always trying to chase everyone's records so I'm sure someone will be chasing mine!"
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