Emily Rutherford first joined the gym to improve her self-esteem.
However, she would consciously avoid the weights area which was dominated by the “big buff dudes”.
Not being the biggest fan of cardio, Emily eventually willed herself to the weights, despite the looks she was given.
“I’m sure people wondered what this 14-year-old girl was doing at the squat rack?.
But Emily wasn’t deterred, she persisted and was recently crowned national youth powerlifting champion at the WPNZ competition in Christchurch.
Emily was first in her class and named the best female youth lifter.
This feat was made even more impressive considering she spent the weeks leading up to the competition not training while on holiday in Bali.
“I had a rough start to the day, which threw me off a bit, but I managed to come back pretty strong.”
Her ascension from shy gym novice to national champion has been a rapid one.
The 16-year-old only joined the gym two years ago.
Her first taste of competition came at the South Island Championships in May where she placed 17th.
“You never know how you’re going to perform in front of people, but it went really well.”
Emily says she uses a combination of mindfulness and “doof doof dance music” to settle her nerves when on stage.
“I just repeat my cues, get set up and try block out the crowd.”
As she saw her lifting numbers increase, so too did her self-esteem.
“It has helped so much with mental and physical confidence.”
Her personal best lifts are 110kg squat, 130 kg deadlift and a 45kg bench, and she can now even out-lift some of those big buff dudes.
“It’s fun when that happens, it really boosts your ego,” she says.