She’s got the power: OHS teacher lifts way to record book

If you study for an hour, you feel pretty prepared for that big test. Now imagine training for one meet for six years. This meet, however, could change your life; you could become a world record-holder.

OHS teacher Ms. Laura Zwilling participated in her first powerlifting meet on Saturday, Dec. 14. Her goal was to break the American and the world record for the squat category of powerlifting.

“I was just doing it for fun, for stress relief,” Zwilling said, recalling why she began powerlifting six years ago. “I had no interest in powerlifting at the time.”

However, there were some guys at her gym who did powerlifting, and Zwilling began listening to them talk about a Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) powerlifting meet. She started to specifically train for her meet a year ago.

“If I can run a meet and lift weights, then I should start competing,” Zwilling said. “Now I’m the one who’s going to be under the bar and be judged by what I can do.”

In order to break the world and American record, several things had to happen. First, Zwilling had to have the proper technique. Overall, she did three lifts–the squat, the deadlift, and the bench press–but her goal was to first break the record for squat.

For the squat, your bottom has to be lower than your knees, and the bar must be held for a certain amount of time until it can be put back on the rack. In addition to the technique requirements, an international judge–the only person who can officiate a world record–must be present.

On her first lift of the day, the squat, Zwilling was faced with a challenge. She had to lift off of a monolift, which uses different technology to move the racking bar out of the way than what she had trained with.

“I was very nervous because I had to lift off a monolift, which I had never been done before,” Zwilling said. After the first squat, however, Zwilling felt more comfortable.

For each event, the powerlifter gets three chances. On Zwilling’s first lift, she set a world record by lifting 200 pounds. On her third squat, she broke the American record by lifting 230 pounds.

“I was very excited. You’re trained so much to be in the zone, so I had to stay focused and not get emotional,” she said. Zwilling was presented with an official medal and a plaque for her achievements.

On the bench press, Zwilling tried to be conservative. Her maximum lift was 135 pounds. Zwilling wanted to keep her energy because she had another goal in mind–break the world record for deadlift as well.

Zwilling pulled the bar up and rolled her shoulders easily. On her first lift, she met the world record at 255 pounds. On her second lift, she had done it again. With a lift of 270 pounds, Zwilling beat the world record. For her last lift, Zwilling could either go for the American deadlift record or end on a good note.

She chose to go for the second American record, which required her lifting more than she had ever deadlifted before: 305 pounds. Zwilling lifted the weight with no problem, but her shoulder hitched when she rolled her shoulders to complete the lift. Because her form was not correct, she did not break the world record.

Zwilling will be participating in the state powerlifting meet at OHS in March. She hopes to break even more records–specifically the American deadlift record that she almost beat at her first meet.

“It was awesome!” Zwilling said of her experience. “I met some really great people. I had a really good competition.”

After the meet was over, she and her friend headed back to the hotel, where Zwilling relaxed in the hot tub. After her exhausting day, she could barely move, so she went to bed at 6:30.

“My whole body was just tired,” Zwilling said. Overall, she lifted 670 pounds at the meet.

She finished her competition with two world records–one in the squat and one in the deadlift. Zwilling also beat the American squat record.

Zwilling’s goal turned into reality on Dec. 14. She certainly had her students’ support; her classes made and bought shirts to root for their teacher. Because the meet was several hours away, OHS students could not travel there with her. Instead they signed her purple rhinestone lifting belt as a way of being with her for the special event.

Before Saturday, Zwilling was most excited to “see what I can do–if I can do this.” This was obviously something she cared about and had a passion for, so testing herself at a meet would be a big challenge. “I can do it at a gym, but can I do it at a meet?” she said.

She not only proved that she can compete in powerlifting meets; Zwilling proved that she can compete with the world, and breaking records was the perfect way to do that.