Powerlifter Robyn Ripley dreams about more than simply winning something to gather dust on a shelf.
“When people ask me about this ‘big dream,’ they expect me to talk about the hardware I am bringing home – that is really a side dream,” said Ripley, recent interim Campus Recreation Services fitness and wellness coordinator, and currently a coach at the Western Student Recreation Center (WSRC).
Instead, she dreams of changing the perceptions of strong women in sport and, in turn, society.
Ripley stands 5-foot-3-inches and weighs 52 kg (114 pounds). But don’t let small stature belie her explosive power as a powerlifter.
First, let’s distinguish powerlifting and weightlifting. In weightlifting, also known as Olympic weightlifting, athletes throw weight over their heads, via clean and jerk or clean and press. The powerful movements demand speed and flexibility. In powerlifting, athletes bench, deadlift and squat the weight. It is more of a raw strength sport.
While an empty bar, which weighs about 20 kg (44 pounds), may pose a challenge to some, Ripley benches 80 kg (176 pounds), deadlifts 165 kg (364 pounds) and squats 124 kg (275 pounds). However, those are only modest numbers.
During her time at Western, Ripley became immersed in the local lifting and fitness culture. That led to her recently finishing second in her weight class at the Canadian Powerlifting Union (CPU) National Championships in St. Catharines. The 28-year-old hoisted more than 340 kg over the three events.
Ranking sixth overall among 100 women at the competition, she qualified for the International Powerlifting Federation’s Classics Powerlifting World Championships, where the world’s finest powerlifters will converge on Salo, Finland, to compete in June.
Ripley will be the first London woman to walk on that world stage.
“The ‘big dream’ is, I can change the way other women think about sport. I want women to do sports that challenge the social norm,” she said. “Every time I grab the groceries, people ask, ‘Can I help you with that?’ And it is great to be able to say, ‘I can do it myself.’
“It shouldn’t matter whether you’re male or female. It shouldn’t matter if you’re big or small. Anyone could do it,” Ripley said.
When not competing, Ripley coaches. Last summer, she met a Western student who thought she was not strong enough to compete in powerlifting. Ripley then told her, “It’s not about being strong enough. It’s about making that step. Competing is about having a good time and doing your best. Maybe you will exceed your expectations.”
Since powerlifting is not yet an official Olympic sport, Ripley receives no funding for going to the championships. Because of that, she started a fundraiser in London to finance her trip to Finland. The goal is to reach $4,000 in donations to offset the costs for the Team Canada jersey, hotel, training and food.
Ripley has been told how she has changed the way other athletes see powerlifting and how she has inspired them to lift heavier things. She is glad her story is able to connect everyone in the weightlifting community.
“The fitness scene in London is awesome,” she said. “Everyone cares about even ‘little’ people like me.”
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For more information about Robyn Ripley and her journey to the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Championships, visit her IndieGoGo page.