MELBOURNE’S Leora Yates and Sydney’s Geoffrey Lewis are excelling in weightlifting and powerlifting at the highest level despite only beginning those demanding power sports in mid – or in the latter’s case – later life, providing a source of strength and inspiration to anyone seeking a healthier and more active lifestyle.
At 42 and 69 respectively, they continue to break new records as they prepare to compete next month in the IWF Masters Weightlifting World Championships in Barcelona (Yates) and the Australian Powerlifting Championships in Melbourne (Lewis).
Yates – a mother of three and a former school teacher who now runs her own outdoor fitness business – switched her focus from Crossfit training to weightlifting only a few years ago but has certainly made up for lost time.
She became a national record holder in the female 40-44 age division when winning gold at the 2017 Masters Oceania, Australian and World Weightlifting Championships.
In April this year Yates set a new female world record in her age category when she won gold at the 2018 Australian and Oceania Masters, lifting 98kg in the clean and jerk, and 77kg in the snatch.
And in early July she won silver at the Victorian Championships in the senior open women’s division, lifting 95kg (C&J) and 75kg (snatch).
Yates will be part of a team of four at the Worlds who train at TG Strength in Melbourne’s east, and is setting herself high goals.
“I’m aiming to lift 100kg in the C&J and 80kg in the snatch [in Barcelona], and my preparations are going well,” Yates said.
Yates puts her success down to “training very hard, learning from a great coach in Lester Ho, and trying to be a role model for women from a body image perspective – to show them that women can be strong and that strength in women is a good thing.
Lewis, who is due to turn 70 in December, barely weighs 70kg and has a deceptively slight build, which seemingly goes against everything related to the world of powerlifting – a discipline involving a combination of deadlifts, squats and bench presses.
Yet he can lift more than double his weight, has achieved things in the men’s powerlifting 65-70 age division that he never dreamed of, and believes the best is yet to come for him as he competes in the 70+ division at the Australian Powerlifting Championships from August 3-5.
In May this year at a tournament in Canberra, he set a new deadlifting record of 167.5kg for his age and weight group, and also lifted 112.5kg (squat) and bench pressed 80kg.
Even more remarkably, Lewis – who has a PhD in pure maths, is a former lecturer in quantitative economics and runs his own software business – could only lift less than 10kg when he tried the sport for the first time in search of a healthier lifestyle following a major operation to unblock several arteries.
“The way this has all happened for me – in powerlifting of all things – normally just doesn’t make sense to anyone when they see someone my age and my size,” Lewis said.
“It’s something I even find amazing. After I had my operation, I knew I needed to immediately improve my health, and my son took me along to his fitness instructor to build upper body strength, and that’s how it started.
“When I compete at tournaments, I’m usually asked why I’m smiling and not feeling the pressure.
“I tell them I’m smiling because I never expected to be here.”
Lewis applies his mathematical knowledge to the sport, continually working on his technique to apply maximum strength more efficiently.
He hopes what he achieves inspires others to take steps to improve their health, no matter how old or unfit they are.
“I feel very good physically, so I see turning 70 not as something to dread, but as a milestone worth celebrating.
“When you face or get through a life threatening situation, it makes you reflect on the need to take action to increase exercise and improve your health.
“Taking that first step is 50 per cent of the battle.”
To help Leora Yates and her teammates cover costs to represent Australia at the 2018 IWF Masters World Championships, visit https://au.gofundme.com/get-tg-strength-to-barcelona