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70-year-old Lenna Barker competes in Missouri Powerlifting Championships

Saturday, December 17, 2011 | 7:18 p.m. CST; updated 7:36 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 17, 2011

COLUMBIA — It's never too late to become a world champion powerlifter.

At least that's what 70-year-old Lenna Barker thinks.

Barker, from Fulton, started powerlifting in October 2010. On Saturday, she qualified for the 2012 World Drug Free Powerlifting Federation Powerlifting World Championships in October in Norwell, Mass.

She said she started, "because I had a huge double chin, but the main thing was because I had a blood clot and the doctor said, 'I need you to get some resistance training.'"

Barker showed up at the YMCA in Fulton and asked Brian Beanland to be her personal trainer. Beanland was busy training for the 2011 WDFPF World Powerlifting Championships, which he won in the 198-pound division. He also won a world championship in 2010.

When he got back, Barker asked him, "Do you think you can do that for me?"

Beanland said yes.

Now, they train together three times a week.

"We trained really, really, really hard," he said. "There was never a point that that woman ever told me that she couldn't do something. She was always just saying, 'put a little bit more on there.'"

On Saturday, Barker got to show off at a competition. It was her second career competition. Her first came in the Show-Me State Games in July.

The day started early. She arrived with her husband and granddaughter at the Mizzou Rec Complex a little after 9 a.m., just in time for the first event of the 2011 Missouri State Powerlifting Championships — the squat.

Although it was her second competition, it was the first time she entered the squat event. Beanland hadn't arrived yet, so her husband called him to find out what weight Barker should attempt first.

Wearing a pink T-shirt, navy blue singlet, red converse high-tops and a determined look on her face, Barker stepped up to the bar. Her first attempt at 88 pounds was ruled a bad lift by the judges, but her second lift counted.

Although you couldn't see it on her face, Barker was thrilled to "get on the board" in the squat. She hardly smiled, but she walked around the gym telling other competitors and spectators how pleased she was.

Beanland had arrived by then and was there to wrap Barker's hands or help her put on her belt for the other events.

With squat out of the way, Barker's best lift in the bench press was 71.5 pounds and her best in the dead lift was 209 pounds. Her combined score for all three events qualified her for next year's world championships.

Even upon hearing the good news, her stern look never left her face. But throughout the day, she showed plenty of kindness behind her serious appearance.

After her last lift, she hugged all of the other female competitors and her trainer. After awards were handed out, she joked with Beanland about calling him master and bowing to him when they train.

"She's an inspiration to me," Beanland said. "Coming here and watching her do this makes me want to get back into this and do the next competition."

Beanland gives inspirational speeches throughout the year, and said he wishes he could bring Barker along to all of them.

Barker embraces something that Beanland always tells her: She has just as many bones, joints, organs and muscles as anybody else. She trains to keep her body as healthy as anybody else.

"I didn't want to go into the next 10 years being stiff and old and not being able to move," Barker said.

Beanland works with her in the gym and also makes sure she eats right and keeps a good attitude.

"Everyone thinks this is just a meathead sport, but there's a lot more to it," Beanland said.

With senior citizens, Beanland focuses on increasing their bone density. He also works much more deliberately with them.

"You really got to take your time," he said. "You got to plan, you got to know exactly why they're doing something, when they're doing it, what they're doing."

His training has helped Barker reach her goal of getting in shape, but her sights are still set on a world powerlifting title.

"That's what I'm headed for," she said. "I don't want just this."


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