‘You get the stereotype that you’re going to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger with a wig,’ says female powerlifter

Samia Wahab says the cultural differences between UK and Kyrgyzstan made her preconceptions about the sport disappear

‘You get the stereotype that you’re going to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger with a wig,’ says female powerlifter

Samia Wahab, 23, from Bolton, who started powerlifting 10 years ago, was selected to represent Britain in the final of the World Masters Powerlifting Championships on 18 and 19 June. She will represent the UK in the +105kg category.

What are powerlifting’s greatest achievements? It’s really hard to find a day when women haven’t power-packed something. Women are often the first to look for new sports to try once the male trend comes around. But I never imagined myself powerlifting. It’s not the culture at all.

Why have you chosen this sport? It’s the right kind of training for weight loss. People make assumptions about a lack of variety, but the intensive diet is brilliant. It makes you focus and try harder. You get the stereotypical stereotype that you’re going to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger with a wig. But you’re not.

What do you normally do for training? I lift weight for a few hours a day. I sometimes add weighted chest presses. A lot of men are muscle-bound and have the biceps to match, but for women, it’s very important to have the core strength. The strength building is intense and muscle is being put to good use in your training.

Who inspired you to start lifting? My dad. He used to be a big bodybuilder. He used to go to the gym every day, all the staff loved him and, when he didn’t show up any more, they didn’t have anything better to do with themselves. I used to go with him. The fact that he was as good as he was, it inspired me. I felt like I was watching someone who had an unlimited potential.

Has it changed you? It has taught me to not trust anybody. I wasn’t sure what I was doing because of my background. I thought it would be easier for me because I had certain ideas and culture around powerlifting, and I was easily dissuaded and thought it was more about men than a sport. And I thought it was about training with a coach and powerlifting equipment, but that’s not what it’s really about. It’s about knowing what to do when you’re doing it properly.

What role do you play in the team? As the ambassador. My job is to be vocal, ask questions, put team spirit in order.

Would you do it again? Yes, if I still had the same social life and friends. But I wouldn’t do it all the time. I’ll try it for a week and not do it again. And then I’m going to eat an old school dinner and start thinking what I did wrong and how to do it right.

• Samia is the author of Why You Should never admit you hate your day job. If you’d like to sponsor the 2016 Rio Olympics, please go to the British Olympian and Paralympic sponsor section of JustGiving

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