‘Australia’s strongest’ great grandma inspires after setting weight lifting record

Dec 15, 2023
While Heather Maddern said she enjoyed deadlifting she never would have imagined competing in a powerlifting competition. Source: Getty Images.

In a feat that has left jaws dropping and hearts soaring, an Australian great grandma, affectionately dubbed “Australia’s strongest” has shattered weightlifting records and become a beacon of inspiration for people of all ages.

Queensland great-grandma Heather Maddern’s accomplishment is all the more extraordinary considering her triumphant battles against cancer three times since 2015, in addition to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years ago.

Maddern journey into strength training began as part of her exercise regime following her last cancer treatment in April.

All her hard work came to a head when the grandmother of three and great-grandmother of four became the first woman in her 80s to compete in the Capo Powerlifting Australia competition on Saturday, December 9 in which she achieved a record deadlift of 80kgs.

“Powerlifting has made me mentally and physically stronger, it’s something I never thought I would have been able to do – I mean, can you imagine an 80-year-old in lycra and compression stockings?” Maddern said.

“It all started when I reached out to a local strength training facility asking for help to build up my strength.

“I was at a point where I found hanging the washing out was difficult, even to lift my arms up.

“One of my surgeries involved removing 16 lymph nodes from my left arm and I wasn’t able to do what I used to.”

While Maddern said she enjoyed deadlifting she never would have imagined competing in a powerlifting competition.

“I told my oncologist I wanted to lift 80kg by my birthday in December,” she laughed.

“I’m an ordinary old lady just throwing a weight around, I feel as fit as a fiddle.

“I’ve still got ‘the girls’, and I never wore a beanie after losing my hair during chemotherapy because I looked like a boiled egg. I just get on with things.”

Owner of JC Strength and head coach of Anytime Fitness Capalaba Jillian Cox said Maddern was “Australia’s strongest grandma”.

“She’s going to smash the record on her first attempt,” said Ms Cox, who has been training the great-grandma,” Cox said.

“When Heather told me her story, I knew exactly what she needed to do. She could hardly stand up properly when she first walked through the doors – her stability was shot.

“Heather does Bulgarian split squats, and her stability is crazy – it just shows what strength training does for the older generation.

“I remember when she did a split squat for the first time I burst into tears, I was sobbing. Heather asked why I was crying, and I had to remind her of where she started to where she is now.”

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