A woman who hated exercise took up powerlifting to help combat her arthritis and is now slaying it as a commonwealth gold medalist in the sport.
She says she’s now fitter than when she was in her 20s, and has now won gold, silver, and bronze medals in weightlifting.
Arthritis prevented 58-year-old Kelly Clark from doing so much as close the boot of her car. Her obesity worsened the condition, and facing both severe joint inflation and a “cocktail of drugs” prescribed for it, she took up weightlifting instead.
Clark first visited doctors when she was 49 for a pain in her side and the inability to complete simple tasks around the house. They diagnosed her with osteoarthritis, a condition which leaves sufferers with stiff and sore joints.
But 9 years later, Clark lost a third of her body weight. Her bench is at 165 lbs. (75 kg), and she was able to get off all her medications.
“I couldn’t close my car boot. I couldn’t have a shoulder bag on one shoulder, and I couldn’t reach into kitchen cupboards if they were above my head,” said Clark, from South Yorkshire.
“It’s changed my life in so many different ways. I’ve gone from totally unfit on arthritis medication to coming off it and lifting.”
“I was traveling around for work a lot, so not having a routine of any sort of exercise,” said Clark. “That meant staying in hotels and eating the wrong stuff and living out of the glove box.
“But when I was put on medication, that was really the trigger, like I don’t want to carry on being like that,” she added, saying that it interfered with her sleep.
The weightlifting cured it all, but her recovery also inspired her to take up the competition side of it.
In 2017 she was volunteering as a referee at a Special Olympics event when she decided she wanted to try it out. By 2019, she had qualified to compete in the World Powerlifting Championships for Team Great Britain, before going on to the World Bench Press Championships in 2021. After that she was hooked.
She kept going and claimed gold and silver medals for England in the bi-annual Commonwealth Championships in New Zealand last month after lifting a record weight in ‘equipped bench press’ event in her weight category.
She came home with a gold medal in the ‘equipped bench press’ and a silver medal in the ‘classic bench press’ – her best results at a world competition to-date.
“Both competitions took place on the same day, which was quite difficult. You have to keep your body weight within a certain limit, so I had to do two weigh-ins,” said Clark. “I was running between the weighing room for the second competition and the podium. If you miss the time slot for weighing in, you’re in a bit of trouble.”
Kelly, who bagged her gold with a winning lift of 132 lbs. (60kg), said it was a “dream” to take part in world competition, which was funded by her employer, Keepmoat.
“If someone had told me I would be this mobile, let alone competing in international competitions ten years ago I would never have believed them.”