‘My kids’ friends think I’m a superhero’

Andrea Thompson’s two children are very proud of their mum, and rightly so. She is, after all, officially Britain’s strongest woman.

“They often take in newspaper stories about me or medals in to school to show their classmates,” she says.

“It’s quite amusing when a group of five-year-olds approach me in the playground, and ask how much can I lift.

“As they don’t understand weights yet, I tell them I could pick up the head teacher – they think I’m a superhero, it’s the best feeling ever!”

Thompson, 34, won her title last August, and now has her eyes set on bigger prizes including the Arnold Strongman Classic. Founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger, it takes place annually in Columbus, Ohio.

Hiccup

The part-time bar manager from Melton, Suffolk, won four out of five events to claim the British crown in Northampton, having only begun competing in strongman/woman events in June 2014.

She triumphed in the deadlift contest, picking up a mammoth 215kg bar from the floor to a standing position, and destroyed the field in the giant dumbbell event by lifting a 42.5kg weight above her shoulder seven times.

Another win for Thompson came in the yoke carry, where she had to dash to 15 metres with a 230kg H-shaped frame before dropping it, she then proceeded to the farmers’ walk, where she transported 100kg in each hands back down the circuit.

She suffered a hiccup in the truck pull, coming second-to-last, but completed the day with a strong finish in the Atlas stones, where she lifted three of the four hefty spheres in the quickest time to beat her opponents to the prize.

Festival

Her focus has switched to the Arnold Sports Festival, where she competed for the first time last year.

“It’s hard as a ‘Strongwoman’ is still a niche and it takes many titles and broken records to really get noticed”

The ‘Arnolds’ are multi-sport competition which includes the Arnold Strongman Classic, fitness and figure events, professional bodybuilding, and a bikini weekend expo.

“The Arnolds are the biggest strength and fitness event in the world, they’re huge,” Thompson told Elephant Sport. “Sometime people work for years for a spot at this event.

“I competed there as a novice and came fifth in the world,” she explained. “My aim is beat that. You are competition against yourself, and if you mess up, you will only have yourself to blame.”

Gruelling

Although different to weightlifting as seen at the Olympics, Strongman – which, despite its name, includes events for women – does have similarities, Thompson said.

As well as lifting, the gruelling events also focus on areas such as athleticism, mental and physical strength, speed and endurance.

“It took a while to adjust my mindset, and I still have days where I want to eat kilos of chocolate – I’m a woman after all!”

Thompson has confidence in her abilities to compete at the highest level – if she can afford to…

“I was hoping there would be a flurry of potential sponsors [following her British title win],” she said. “It’s hard as a ‘Strongwoman’ is still a niche and it takes many titles and broken records to really get noticed.

“Ideally I would get a sponsor to fund my trip, and the rest I would fund through my job. I usually work extra hours if I have a competition coming up.

“For last year’s USA trip, I had help from family and friends. My husband is also very supportive, and supports my career financially, too.”

Disastrous diets

Although she’s still coming to terms with her rapid rise in the world of Strongman/woman and the costs involved in elite competition, one massive benefit for Thompson is that, after having previously struggled through disastrous diets, the sport has finally helped her to learn to love her own body.

“It started as a hobby and a way to get fit,” she explained. “I’d spent so long lifting at various gyms and bootcamps and being on disastrous diets in a body I hated. The sport has taught me to love what my body can do.

“It has also taught me to pass on that self-belief to my children and others around me. I look at food as a fuel, not as a comfort which what I used to do.

“It took a while to adjust my mindset, and I still have days where I want to eat kilos of chocolate – I’m a woman after all!”

Check out Andrea’s Facebook page.

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