A weighty achievement

It has only been a few years since schoolteacher Tracy Chipping took up weightlifting, but she has now fulfilled a long-held ambition to reach the heights of sporting success. The Star reporter Simon Henderson finds out what it takes to carry a heavy load. 

At an age when many consider slowing down, 62-year-old Tracy Chipping is doing just the opposite, winning international medals for weightlifting.

In 2016 when her son decided to join a gym, she decided to "take a gander" and see what they offered.

She spent about 18 months at Les Mills, taking part in general fitness exercises, but found herself gravitating towards the heavy weights.

"I am really not a cardio girl."

She began to focus on the three main lifts of bench press, squat and deadlifts.

"It became a natural fit, really."

Ms Chipping realised that she was making significant gains in weightlifting, and in late 2018 took part in a novice powerlifting competition in Queenstown.

Tracy Chipping recently won gold in bench press, squat and deadlift at the recent World Masters...
Tracy Chipping recently won gold in bench press, squat and deadlift at the recent World Masters Powerlifting Championships in Mongolia. She puts in the hours at Propel Fitness, Dunedin, sometimes staying until midnight to complete her training programme. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
By the following year she had already qualified for the national competitions.

"I went up really quickly, so I sort of found my niche, which was kind of nice."

She now trains at Propel Fitness and said weightlifting was a sport that required persistence, with training sessions of four times a week, for about three hours each time.

"It’s not the kind of sport that you can just do a couple of hours and walk away from."

Accommodating her training with her day job as a teacher at King's High School has meant some late nights.

"Because I'm a teacher, I have to do parent-teacher interviews and things like that, and they might not finish till 9, 9.30 and then I have to come and train.

"I've been here till midnight some nights, all by myself."

"I have days when I have to train, regardless, so that is the commitment."

That commitment has, however, led to international success.

She recently took part in the Women’s World Classic Masters Powerlifting Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Ms Chipping returned with a clutch of medals, winning gold in bench press (72.5kg), squat 137.5kg and deadlift (160.5kg) in the Masters 3 under-84kg category.

Her deadlift of 160.5kg not only earned her gold but also set a world record in her category.

Ms Chipping said the training was a satisfying process.

"It’s very task-oriented, it's very achievable.

"All the things that you want as a human being to be able to walk away and say, ‘I had a good time there, I did everything I went to do, I picked up some heavier weights than I did last week’."

She encourages more women to try weight training as a means to combat osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

"Lifting weights is really good for your bones."

The experience of becoming a champion has provided Ms Chipping a sense of achievement that had been burning inside her since childhood.

"When I was a child, we used to watch the Olympic Games on the telly.

"And I made a promise to myself that I would be at the Olympic Games."

Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, opportunities for women in sports were limited, but that dream never left her.

"I always thought, if I can just find the right sport, then maybe I can be at the top of my game.

"So I'm now at the top of where I can be, so I’m pretty happy about that."