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For Able Seaman (AB) Helen Barnsley-Parson, aged 21, from Portsmouth, it started as a normal lunchtime training session at the gym, and finished with her becoming a top female powerlifter in the Royal Navy.
AB Barnsley-Parson has been a member of Portsmouth-based reserve unit HMS King Alfred since 2007, working evenings in a local pub. A keen athlete, she regularly trains at lunchtime in the gym at HMS Collingwood. Her routine originally consisted of normal fitness training and circuits; weightlifting was not something she had considered as part of her training.
But, one afternoon, when the 2011 Royal Navy powerlifting single-lift championships were being held at HMS Collingwood, AB Barnsley-Parson decided to stay and watch the proceedings, getting roped in by pure chance.
To her surprise, the reservist then found herself as a last-minute entrant in the competition:
I was a complete beginner to the concept of powerlifting.
As an Under-23, AB Barnsley-Parson also qualified for the junior competition.
The competition required competitors to make three lifts - squat, bench-press and dead-lift. She did so well that despite being a novice at the sport she set new records for opening weights in all three categories, achieving a total lift score of 220kg, itself a new junior and open record; an amazing achievement considering her age, weight category and experience.
In the end she won best female lifter (overall) and best bench-press in her weight category of 70kg. The records she set were so good that they now stand for both the junior and open categories.
AB Barnsley-Parson is now training with the Royal Navy Powerlifting Association and is aiming to compete in the inter-Services and regional competitions. She is also hoping to qualify for the British nationals and, if she can, there is still a chance that she could compete in the Olympics.
She is already talking to the British Powerlifting Association about training with the national squad.
When asked what the competition meant to her, AB Barnsley-Parson said:
It’s great that I’ve been given the opportunity, through being in the Reserves, to compete in an event that I would previously have never considered, and it actually turns out I’m not bad! I am very proud of my achievement.
AB Barnsley-Parson is a member of the Information Ops branch at HMS King Alfred in Portsmouth.