“Strength” is the new “skinny,” and strength training can compliment anyone in any sport they choose.
That’s one of the most important messages a champion powerlifter from Langley, Bonney Rempel, wants to share with any young girls expressing interest in her sport.
The 50-year-old Brookswood woman recently returned from Eastern Europe, where she earned a silver in the her sport’s premiere contest: the World Classic Powerlifting Competition.
“It’s a little surreal,” she said of the second-place overall win.
Coming from a long line of women whose strength was seen mainly in their character and their ability to overcome many of life’s obstacles – Rempel wasn’t absolutely convinced she could do it.
But today, she stands as living proof it’s never too late or too difficult to take on new challenges.
“I certainly never saw myself as an athlete. Fifty seemed so old not too long ago,” she said, noting she celebrated her half-century birthday with her husband, Brad, last month in St. Petersburg, Russia – just after to the competition.
“Many years ago I attended a Tony Robbins seminar, and I walked across a bed of red hot coals without receiving a burn. It was at that moment I truly believed that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.”
Only taking up the sport four years ago, Rempel was enticed by the enthusiasm of her Tupperware host, Wendy Pronick – someone she’d never met before but who was training at the time to compete as a lifter.
Rempel has been training with Mitch Walls at Pro Trainers Gym on the Langley Bypass for eight years.
But after meeting Pronick, how she trained all changed.
She printed out some details about the sport from the BC Powerlifting Association website, took them in to Walls, and asking if she could do it.
“He said ‘Of course you can, we just need to change your training,’ And thus it began,” Rempel recounted, crediting Walls with her successes.
“Seriously a person can achieve almost anything today if they want to,” said Rempel, who stands 5 ft. 7 in. tall and weighs in at 230 pounds.
“I wish I would of started competing younger, but girls didn’t do these kind of things,” she said, noting it took some time to get her mother and friends to rally behind her decision to lift competitively.
A marketing director by day, Rempel trains one to two hours a day, four times a week. She’s typically up at 4:15 a.m. and at her office at Bentall Kennedy (the company that manages Willowbrook Shopping Centre and various other Langley properties) by 7 a.m. That allows her to leave the office by 3:30 p.m. and she heads straight to the gym on training days.
One step at a time
One meet at a time, she’s earned her credits. More recently, she earned a gold at this year’s nationals back in February, which guarantee her a spot with the Canadian masters team at the Worlds.
Last year, she competed in the Worlds in Texas, placing fifth.
“I did take a gold in the bench press, and but never saw the podium as my total was too low,” Rempel explained.
This time around, she set a number of B.C., national, and even one World record.
Powerlifting is often confused with Olympic lifting. But, it is an individualized sport in which competitors attempt to lift as much weight as possible for one repetition each in the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
“Each lift competes for a medal. I do three lifts squat, bench, and then deadlift. The overall podium is determined by total weight lifted over the three lifts,” Rempel explained.
Ultimately, she finished in what was described as a high-pressured battle against her U.S. opponent for the podium placement, coming down to the very last deadlift.
She earned her spot on the podium by lifting a total of 995.5 lbs.
This year’s International Powerlifting Federation competition was held in Belarus, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. The competition was held in the capital city of Minsk and attracted more than 900 lifters, 64 international referees, 410 coaches, and officials from 30-plus nations.
Beyond the medal and vitamin supplements, Rempel came home with a huge sense of accomplishment, she told the Langley Advance.
“My mom asked me if I was going to melt my medals down,” Rempel said. “I had to break it to her that they were gold coloured.”
Next year’s Worlds will be held in Calgary, and organizers are expecting a record number of attendees. Rempel said she has every intention of being among them.
In addition to competing, Rempel is taking a proactive, behind the scenes interest in the sport.
For the past year and a half, she’s sat as a director on the BC Powerlifting Association.
And, one day before she left for the Worlds, she was crowned the association’s best female lifter of the year.
“What an honour,” she said of the provincial recognition.
“I want to be a good example to other women. Anything can happen if you open your mind to the possibility of it,” she said. “This is 50!”