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Woman becomes weightlifting champion after arthritis diagnosis

"I’m now 58 and fitter than I was at 28."

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Kelly Clark, 58, disliked exercising but took up powerlifting to help combat her arthritis and is now a weightlifting champion. (Photo by Sal Jackson via SWNS)

By Douglas Whitbread via SWNS

A woman who hated exercise took up powerlifting to help combat her arthritis - and is now a commonwealth gold medalist in the sport.

Kelly Clark, 58, couldn't close her car boot due to the debilitating condition and tipped the scales at nearly 15 stones (210 lbs) after she piled on the pounds.

But after believing she faced lifelong mobility issues and a “cocktail of drugs” after being diagnosed with severe joint inflammation, she took up the sport nine years ago.

Kelly, who now weighs 10 stones (140 lbs), can bench press a staggering 75kg (165 lbs) and no longer needs arthritis medication thanks to her new-found passion.

And she claimed gold and silver medals for England in the bi-annual Commonwealth Championships in New Zealand last month after lifting a record weight in the equipped bench press event in her weight category.

Kelly, who lives with her husband Andy, 59, in Rotherham, South Yorks., said she is now fitter than she was in her 20s.

She said: “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 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.

“I could see myself really being one of these people with massive mobility issues and on a cocktail of drugs, potentially just short of my 50th birthday.

“But I’m now 58 and fitter now than I was at 28.

“I still sort of pinch myself because it still doesn’t seem real sometimes – the complete difference between the life before I lifted and the life after.”

Clark, 58, said she tipping the scales at 210 lbs was also a motivation for her to start working out. (Photo by Sal Jackson via SWNS)

Kelly, a people skills development trainer, first visited doctors when she was 49 and overweight as she felt pain in her side and couldn’t complete simple tasks around the house.

They diagnosed her with osteoarthritis, an agonizing condition that leaves sufferers with stiff and sore joints.

Kelly said the arthritis drugs she was prescribed had kept her "awake at night” - and this had triggered her to start powerlifting as a natural way to improve her mobility.

She said: “I was traveling around for work a lot, so not having a routine of any sort of exercise.

“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. I could just see it was only going to get worse.”

Kelly took up the sport - which requires competitors to squat, bench press and deadlift the most amount of weight they can - for “health and fitness" reasons.

But she began competing against others in 2017 after a referee at a Special Olympics event where volunteering convinced her to try it.

By 2019, she had qualified to compete in the World Powerlifting Championships for Team GB before going on to the World Bench Press Championships in 2021.

Kelly then flew out to Auckland, New Zealand, for the Commonwealth Championships, where she competed in the under 69kg class for 50 to 60 years-olds on Nov. 29.

And she came home with a gold medal in the equipped benchpress and a silver medal in the classic benchpress – her best results at a world competition to date.

Clark can lift a staggering 75kg or 165 lbs and no longer needs arthritis medication thanks to her new-found passion. (Photo by Sal Jackson via SWNS)

Kelly said: “I got international medals at last year’s world event - a bronze and a silver - so this is my first international title so to speak. It’s the biggest thing so far for me.

“And to go to New Zealand and do that was fantastic. It was the first time I’d competed for England because with the Worlds, I’d competed for Team GB.

“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 to two weigh-ins.

“I was running between the weighing room for the second competition and the podium. If you miss the timeslot for weighing in, you’re in a bit of trouble.”

Kelly, who bagged her gold with a winning lift of 60kg (132 lbs), said it was a “dream” to take part in the world competition, which was funded by her employer, Keepmoat.

She said: “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.

“Meeting and competing with incredible people along the way has been a dream come true.”

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